The Indian government which nearly killed community radio services in April this year by hiking spectrum fee by five times to Rs 91,000 annually, has decided to waive off the fee completely following widespread protest from various groups and requests from government bodies. On Friday, the government said
The Ministry of Communications & IT has decided to waive off spectrum fee for Community Radio Services (CRS). This follows requests received from National Advisory Council, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Community Radio Association for waiver of spectrum charges for Community Radio Services.
The governments earlier move was vastly unpopular and proved prohibitively expensive to cash starved organisations which usually operated community radio stations in rural areas.
Minister for communications and IT, Kapil Sibal has asked Department of Telecom to evolve detailed guidelines by 12th October, to ensure that the spectrum is optimally used and the channels use these airwaves only to inform and empower the common man, a government statement said.
“Although this may result in an opportunity cost of not more than Rs 25 lakh to the Government, the cost is far outweighed by the benefit of informed, empowered and inclusive local communities and the nation,” the statement added.
Finally, the government seems to have woken up to the fact that community radio services play an important role in the society. Earlier, Pi had written about an experiment which had immense potential to curb Naxal violence in Chattisgarh using community radio and mobile telephony. CGNet Swara, the experiment which sought to democratise the media in Chattisgarh using radio and mobile had to wind up their radio operations as costs skyrocketed.