Centre may waive community radio fee

Centre may waive community radio fee

Music to ears of operators facing fund crunch

In a move that may bring a major relief to community radio operators, the Centre is contemplating giving complete waiver of the annual spectrum fee charged from them against the radio wave allocations. 

“Our feedback is that the spectrum fee has been waived but there are certain procedures which are required. Those procedures are underway. I really can't make a commitment because it is not in my hands. But, it is expected that the complete waiver of the spectrum fee will become a reality very shortly,” Information and Broadcasting Ministry secretary Uday Kumar Varma said at the two-day National Community Radio Sammelan here on Sunday.

 The conference has been organised by the I&B Ministry.

If spectrum charges are completely waived, it will be a major relief to many operators who have been finding it difficult to run their respective community radio stations due to lack of adequate funds.

While the operators find it difficult to generate adequate funds to run the system, the payment of annual spectrum fee of Rs 91,000 has been adding to their woos.

Many community radio operators claim that the government advertising rate was enhanced by the I&B Ministry from Rs 1 to Rs 4 per second for community radio stations in an effort to support them but it could hardly bring any major relief to the operators.

Even as some of the community stations became very popular in their respective areas, the cost of running the stations continued to be higher than the revenue that they could generate through government or private advertisements and other sources.

Varma said the ministry took the matter “very proactively” as the increase in spectrum fee for community radio stations from Rs 19,000 to Rs 91,000 was not “very advisable”.

The community radios, so far, have permission to air only non-news programmes with emphasis on agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development, cultural and other developmental issues.

Last year, the Union Cabinet, while clearing the policy guidelines for expansion of FM radio broadcasting services, gave nod for private broadcasters to relay the All India Radio news bulletins in “unedited format” besides airing the non-news and current affairs programmes.

“The fact for the matter is that even for FM which is a far more commercial venture, we have not allowed news which they can create on their own, but we have in the proposed policy that they could perhaps use the AIR news. I am willing to offer that to you,” Varma said.

The I&B ministry was trying to create a single window mechanism to make obtaining of clearances for setting up community radio stations much more convenient, he added.

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