After receiving flak for its decision to increase the spectrum fee for community radio stations from Rs 19,100 to Rs 91,000, the Indian government has now decided to waive off the fee. In a press statement, the government said that the decision has been taken following requests from the National Advisory Council, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Community Radio Association for a waiver of these charges.

Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications & IT has asked the Department of Telecom to devise detailed guidelines by 12th October 2012, to ensure that the spectrum was optimally used and that the channels use these airwaves ‘only to inform and empower the common man’. The government informed that the government would lose Rs 25 lakh following the decision, but it was in the interest of the people as it promoted ‘informed, empowered and inclusive local communities’.

Community radio allows local communities, specially the ones at the grass root level to disseminate information, related to welfare, local issues and awareness. Since these  stations are operated by members of the community and supported by donor funding, and assistance from NGOs, it’s difficult for them to handle the burden of a license/spectrum fee in addition to managing operations. At times, these stations cater to population groups in remote rural locations. So the government’s decision comes as a breather to groups operating community radio stations as they struggle to manage costs.  According to government data, as on July 2012, there were more than 134 community radio stations, operating in the country.

Government’s efforts for promoting CRS: Under the 12th plan, the Ministry has also proposed a Rs 20 crore fund for supporting the community radio movement in India and the setting up of “Community Radio Support Fund of India (CRSFI)” for promoting community radio movement, with an initial corpus grant of Rs 150 crore.  The Ministry has also startedempanelment of Community radio stations with the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP),to get them advertisements. The government had also setup a Facebook page in a bid to establish direct communication between the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and various stakeholders of Community Radio fraternity in the country.