Millennium Post’s exclusive story on the morning on July 9 brought in much cheer among CR practitioners, advocates and enthusiasts, with news coming in that Minister for IT and Communication Kapil Sibal has decided to scrap the fee for community radio stations altogether. The exclusive has the civil society and CR practitioners on tenterhooks in anticipation of the formal announcement, which is yet to be made. The announcement, when made, would come as an acknowledgement of more than two months of constant advocacy and petitioning from civil society and CR practitioners, the latest being NAC member Aruna Roy’s letter to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The policy decision would bring in a huge wave of relief to communities struggling to set up their own community radio station.

The story in Millenium Post read:

The incisive letter that the National Advisory Council
(NAC) member Aruna Roy wrote to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi on
6 July has had desired effect. Roy had opposed the five-fold increase
in license fee for community radios, as per sources. The sources have
told ‘Millennium Post’ that the communications minister Kapil Sibal
has decided to scrap the fee for community radio stations altogether.

Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Communications and
Information Technology have said that Sibal has issued instructions to
R Chandrashekhar, a secretary in the Department of Telecommunications,
to waive off all license fee for community radio stations. It will
come as a huge relief to such radio stations.

In a letter addressed to Gandhi, Roy had highlighted the issue
‘regarding the exorbitant fivefold license fee hike from Rs 19,700 to
Rs 91,000 by the Ministry of Communications and Information
Technology.’

In her petition to Gandhi, Roy pointed out the following: ‘The
Information and Broadcasting Ministry has been largely supportive of
Community Radio and I&B Secretary Uday Kumar Varma has written a
letter to the Secretary DoT, R Chandrashekhar to reconsider the hiking
of the fees in May 2012.’

Roy’s petition also had support of many community radio organisations,
like the Digital Empowerment Forum, Barefoot College and the gram
panchayat of Dandasli. Roy reminded Gandhi in the letter that earlier
a similar petition was sent to her by the community radio activist
Stalin K.

Roy also said, ‘Community radio operators have been petitioning since
then for an exemption in spectrum fees and are now instead faced with
this mammoth fee increase, which will surely kill this fledgling
initiative.’

‘Community radio is a powerful tool for the poor, not-for-profit
companies meant to serve society. They have enormous benefits as an
information and communication tool and are being used to great effect
all over the country,’ added Roy in the letter.