| 22 Jun 2024
Community Radio Stations without renewed licenses still in operation
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MUMBAI: In India, there are around 184 Community Radio Stations (CRS) that are operational, and there is a growing number of CRS that are obtaining licenses to operate in the country. However, in reality, many existing stations are operating without GOPA (Grant of Permission Agreement) renewal, which also means that these stations are working without a license.

Community Radio Association vice president N A Shah Ansari said, “Without GOPA, it means that Community Radio Stations are running illegally, and the Government or the Ministry is not addressing the issue, which means they support this act.”

Sources in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry) stated that the recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) were handed over to the Ministry; however, implementing policies for the CRS is being delayed. The process is under consideration.

Ministry sources also went on to add that the Government has not asked community radio stations to stop functioning, so there is no need for CRS to worry. The Ministry had extended the license till February this year; however, there was no official statement from it on renewing the extension any further. Ansari also revealed that stations without GOPA are functioning without any trouble, and are paying the necessary fees required to the concerned department.

He added, “If this case was the same as private FM stations, the Ministry would have to be answerable to many. However, with Community Radio stations the approach is different.”

The reason for the different approaches is that the government does not make major revenue through this sector, as the minimum fee for CRS is little over Rs 19,000 in total. In 2012, the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC), wing of the Ministry of communication and IT, published an order on 22 March 2012, which stated a hike in spectrum charges/royalty for spectrum users. However, it was later withdrawn from Rs 91,000 back to Rs 19, 000.

Yet another source informed that there are a lot of dark areas for the Community Radio sector, which needs to be addressed to help the industry flourish. Single window clearance is expected to take a little longer to come into practice, as there are a lot of other issues, which are halting the progress of CRS.

As per the data on 1 May 2015, only 184 community radio stations are operational, out of the 229 which have signed the GOPA. Furthermore, as against 211 stations that had signed GOPA agreements by mid-February, the number has gone up to 229.