| 09 Feb 2023
TRAI seeks views on news bulletin for community radio

NEW DELHI: Touching upon an issue that has dominated discussions relating to community radio, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has asked stakeholders to give their views on whether the permission holders for community radio stations should be permitted to carry the news bulletins of All India Radio in unaltered format.

In a consultation paper on Community Radio Stations, TRAI has asked if community based non-news and current affairs programs can be permitted as in the case of FM radio stations.

The consultation paper has been issued following a reference sent by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on 8 January in view of the Grant of Permissions (GOPA) for some of the CRS issued under the 2006 policy guidelines h had already expired after completion of five years and 55 more CRS would complete five years by June 2014. According to the existing policy guidelines for CRS, the period of validity of GOPA is five years and the guidelines contain no provisions for renewal/extension of permissions. Stakeholders have been asked to give their views by 11 June and counter comments by 18 June.

The stakeholders have also been asked what the period of permission for CRS to be prescribed in the Guidelines should be and whether the present five year period is adequate.

Stakeholders may also state what should be the period of extension on the expiry of the initial period of permission for CRS. Suggestions have been sought on whether there should be any additional terms and conditions of extension/renewal of the permission for CRS.

In view of the availability of alternative revenue/funding options, the stakeholders have been asked if there are any reason to increase the duration of advertisement beyond the 5 minutes per hour limitation and why.

Views have also been sought on whether they accept a TRAI proposal for utilisation of CRS during natural calamities/ emergency situations. Suggestions have also been sought on the measures required to ensure a faster growth in the number and spread of CRS in rural India.

The paper notes that till date, the Ministry has issued 461 Letters of Intent (LoI) for setting up CRS in various part of the country. Out of these 461 LoI holders, 200 have signed Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA). At present, 170 CRS are operational, of which 101 are run by educational institutes and universities, 63 by NGOs and 6 are Krishi Vigyan Kendras. These CRS provide developmental, agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development and cultural programmes for meeting the special interests and needs of the local communities.The Government announced its policy for the grant of permission for setting up of CRS in December 2002. Initially, permissions were aimed at well established educational institutions, including IITs/IIMs, with certain restrictions. The first CRS in the country became operational on 1 February 2004 at Anna University, Chennai. The permission period was fixed at three years, under this policy.

In December 2006, the CRS policy was revamped and expanded. The Government announced a revised policy for CRS, bringing non-profit community based organisations, apart from educational institutes, under its ambit. This included civil society and voluntary organisations, State Agriculture Universities (SAU), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutions, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, registered societies and autonomous bodies and public trusts registered under Societies Act or any other such act relevant for the purpose. The period of permission was also enhanced from three years to five years. All the operational CRS permission holders under 2002 guidelines were permitted to migrate to new policy regime without any financial burden.

The policy guidelines of 2006 increased the period of permission to five years from three years earlier. Performance bank guarantee was reduced to Rs. 25000 from Rs. 50000 and maximum transmitter power enhanced to 100 watt from 50 watt. All the operational CRS were permitted to migrate to the new policy guidelines without any financial burden after signing the migration GOPA.

TRAI had sent an email to CRS permission holders on 26 February 2014 seeking preliminary and informal inputs on the issues relevant for growth of CRS in the country. The Ministry had organised the 4th National Community Radio Sammelan from 13-15 February in New Delhi and TRAI also participated.

The main issues that were raised/ received through the afore-mentioned processes included – increase power/ transmitter height to widen the footprint of the CRS particularly in hilly/ mountainous terrain and near the sea coast; permission to move the transmitters during natural calamities, and allow mobility for on-site reporting; increase in ad-time to improve the financial viability of the CRS; assistance in procuring content and permission to broadcast news and current affairs; faster approval of WPC licenses; and permitting digital transmission.