Bengalis in Chittranjan Park in south Delhi or Marwaris in Kolkatta or Parsis in Mumbai can now own their radio stations, thanks to the new community radio
guidelines notified by the Information and Broadcasting ministry this week.
The new policy, for the first time, allows public trusts and societies, registered for more than three years, to start radio stations specifically for their community and preferably in the language of that community. The government has stressed for more community participation, thereby implying that those in that community can perform.
Though the content will be decided by the license holder, the government has imposed certain conditions of what cannot be aired. "No views denigrating women, children or any religion or community will be allowed," an official said. The state governments have been asked to set up special monitoring committees for areas under coverage of FM radio, where community radio licenses will be issued.
Though the license fee is just Rs 2,500 per annum and Rs 25,000 bank gurantee will have to be furnished, the government has allowed foreign funding for setting up the station. If the community finds funds for setting up the station a problem, they can ask their more prosperous friends abroad to fund the unique venture subject to FCRA clearance under Foreign Currency Regulation Act, the guidelines say.
Till now, the community radio service is restricted only for educational institutions and therefore, it has not grown as the government would have expected.
There are only 19 community radio stations in the country. "We expect to increase the number to over 2,000 stations in a few years time. Progressive
schemes with the help of industry will be initiated to achieve the target," said a senior I&B ministry official.
To ensure that community radio become economically viable, the new policy allows commercial advertisement on radio stations for five minutes each hour. In
addition, the government can publicise its programmes through stations. "It should be a no profit no loss station as these stations should not become commercial radio stations. If the station makes any profit that can be used for the benefit of the trust," an official said.
The government has also imposed the condition that no money can be charged for the service. It has to be free-to-air and available within five to ten kilometres of the radio station.