a                                                                                                                                                            Picture courtesy: Google

 

On 27 August this year, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting revised the 2006 Community Radio (CR) Guidelines without fanfare and without warning. Since the 2006 CR Guidelines were framed after years of consultations with civil society organizations and other stakeholders, this new Government order – which clearly hopes to take the CR movement in India in an unmistakably new and surprising direction – came as a shock to many in the community radio sector.

Admittedly, the old CR policy hasn’t been a resounding success. Against the four thousand odd community radio stations promised by various governments in the distant past, we now have 238 operational CR stations. A rough count tells me that these comprise 129 campus radio stations, 101 NGO-run stations and 8 stations in Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs).

The new 2018 policy amendments say quite bluntly that preference will be given to KVKs run by the government. This is rather curious – given the current dispensation’s less than enthusiastic approach to the farm sector and rural distress – but what makes this sudden passion for promoting KVK radio almost certainly a non-starter is the very understandable reluctance of government KVKs to take on the additional burden of running radio stations. It’s not really what they are trained – or paid – to do.

Only eight KVKs operate radio stations in India, and fewer than half of those are government run, despite generous funding offers under the Agriculture Ministry’s Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) scheme.

While cosseting government KVKs, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry has made it doubly difficult for civil society organizations to apply for a CR license, and it wasn’t particularly easy to begin with. All new CR applications from private organizations now have to come with the District Administration’s recommendation, and with compulsory NITI Aayog registration, neither of which was required earlier.

Also, the onus of providing “site security clearance” for their proposed community radio station in border areas and Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas now lies with the applicant. Security clearance was earlier the job of the Home Ministry; how and where an NGO in a remote border village can apply for “site security clearance” is a bit of a mystery.

As it is, the number of CR applications from border / LWE affected areas is minuscule; they are now likely to vanish altogether, leaving India’s remote and media-dark areas – which are desperately in need of local communications – with no local media at all.

Along with giving preference – and single window clearance – to government KVKs, the I&B Ministry has also made it possible for Government Universities to own more than one campus radio station, and for educational institutions to situate their campus radio station outside the campus walls. (This was not the case under the earlier Guidelines).

However, let’s not be mean spirited about this; any educational institution that’s willing to rent a space outside the campus for their CR station, and give access to the public, should be encouraged to do so. As things are, any member of the community that wants to enter a campus radio station would probably have to leap over the wall.

As for government universities being allowed two CR licenses, the chances of a govt university applying for a single CR license have always been slim: only 14 Universities, both govt and private, have a CR license. A govt university applying for two CR licenses would be a miracle.

To come back to the mystery of preferential treatment for KVK radio, the 27th August order says that it is “to enable dissemination of information pertaining to agricultural methods, use of modern technology and practices for enhancement of output, consequently enhancing the income of farmers in line with the mandate of the Government” etc. These are all laudable goals, except that All India Radio already has a very large number of under-utilized Local Radio Stations tasked with this very purpose.

And if KVK radio can somehow enhance the income of farmers “in line with the mandate of the government”, why not offer the same preferential treatment to private KVKs?

Taken as a whole, the new, revised policy has just made it a lot easier for government-run institutions to apply for a CR license, and considerably more difficult for civil society organizations to apply for one.

I’m not sure if discouraging genuine community based organizations from setting up community radio stations – while pretending that government-owned radio is ‘community’ run – is also in line with the mandate of the government, but the new, revised CR policy seems to have taken the community out of community radio.

 

 

Revised Policy Guidelines for setting up Community Radio Stations in India

 

                               2006 CR Guidelines                       2018 Additions & Amendments
Nil

 

1 (f) : Applications of Private Institutions / organizations may come with the recommendation of District Administration. Further, the private institutions / organizations desirous of setting up CR Station in LWE affected areas / Border areas will also provide site security clearance for installation at the proposed geo-coordinates from local administration.
Nil 1 (g) : NGOs, registered societies and Public Charitable Trusts shall be registered on NITI Aayog’s NGO Darpan portal and the applicant shall provide its Unique ID along with the application.
Nil 2 (i) (c) : Preference may be accorded to KVKs (run by Government), to enable dissemination of information pertaining to agricultural methods, use of modern technology and practices for enhancement of output, consequently enhancing the income of farmers in line with the mandate of the Government.
2 (i) : The following types of organisations shall be eligible to apply for Community Radio licences:

a) Community based organisations, which satisfy the basic principles listed at para 1 above. These would include civil society and voluntary organisations, State Agriculture Universities (SAUs), 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. Registration at the time of application should at least be three years old.

 

2 (i) : The following types of organisations shall be eligible to apply for Community Radio licences:

a) Community based organisations, which satisfy the basic principles listed at para 1 above. These would include civil society and voluntary organisations, State Agriculture Universities (SAUs), ICAR institutions, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Registered Societies and Autonomous Bodies and Public Charitable Trusts {to be self-certified by trustee(s) that they are not blood relatives/members of family (wife or husband, son or daughter, parents, siblings)} registered under Societies Act or any other such act relevant for the purpose. Registration at the time of application should at least be three years old.

3 (a) (i) : Universities, Deemed Universities and Government run educational institutions will have a single window clearance by putting up cases before an inter-ministerial committee chaired by Secretary (I&B) for approval. No separate clearance from MHA & MHRD shall be necessary. Once the WPC Wing of the Ministry of Communication & IT earmarks a frequency at the place requested by the institution, a Letter of Intent (LOI) shall be issued. 3 (a) (i) : Government Universities, Deemed Universities (Central and State), Government Colleges, Government Schools and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (run by Government) will have single window clearance. No separate clearance shall be necessary. A meeting of Inter-Ministerial Committee shall be convened to consider applications from such organizations. After approval by Secretary, I&B, Letter of Intent (LoI) shall be issued subject to allocation of frequency by WPC Wing.
4 (v) : An applicant/organisation shall not be granted more than one Permission for CRS operation at one or more places.

 

 

4 (v) : An applicant / organization shall not be granted more than one permission for CRS operations at one or more places. However, Central / State Universities, including autonomous bodies and Agricultural Universities set up under them, having more than one campus, may be allowed to operate CRS at more than one place, provided, the distance between two CR Stations established by same organization should not be less than 25 Kms.
7 (iii) : Universities, Deemed Universities and other educational institutions shall be permitted to locate their transmitters and antennae only within their main campuses.

 

 

 

 

Sajan Venniyoor

7 (iii) : Universities, Deemed Universities, Agricultural Universities & Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), Educational Institutions, and also branch campus, if any, shall be permitted to locate the transmitter and antenna within the geographical area of the community they seek to serve. The geographical area (including the names of villages / institutions etc.) should be clearly spelt out along with the location of the transmitter and antenna in the application form.