the government at the centre has moved one step closer to opening up radio waves to community organisations. In late October this year, a group of ministers cleared a policy for community radio, which had been referred to them by the government in October 2005. Civil society has hailed this.
Under the present community radio guidelines, only educational institutions are permitted to set up campus-based radio stations. Earlier, a Supreme Court judgment in 1995 declaring airwaves public property, to be used for public good had given a fillip to a campaign for community radio.
If the policy now gets cleared by the Union cabinet, ngos with at least three years of community service will be permitted to apply for free licences. In its present form, though, the policy will not allow community radio licences to panchayats and trade unions, sources in the ministry informed.Five-year licences, with transmitters up to 50 watts will be permitted. Sources said that the government is keen to get licensees funding and technical support from agencies such as undp.
In another significant move community-run radio stations can also have five minutes per hour of advertising. This is a contentious issue since it may allow a back-door entry to larger non-community players to highjack stations. "We have been preparing to run community radio set-ups. We fear a threat if advertisements are permitted," said Shankar Gopalakrishnan, secretary of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, an advocacy group for tribal rights.
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