Any legal entity can start a community radio station, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended to the government. As of now, only educational institutions are allowed to get licence for community radio. Significantly, even individuals must also be eligible for the licence, as per the recommendation. Other significant suggestions of Trai include lifting restriction on news and current affairs programmes, and allowing limited advertising on the channels. The licensing process must also be simplified, it has stressed.
Religious bodies engaged in socio-economic activities and publicly-funded organisations would also not be barred, provided management/control is not in government hands, Trai has said.
The government asked Trai to review the community radio policy a few months ago, as only one station (Anna University) has been set up so far. The community radio scheme was opened up almost two years ago. Restriction on news, lengthy licensing process and ban on ads were among the problems cited by the potential players in community radio.
Although financial condition of the application is not a criterion, the licence could be revoked for those stations which are not in operation for three months or more. Also, ownership of the stations should be with Indians, Trai believes.
Trai has suggested a reduction in bank guarantee from Rs 50,000 to Rs 25,000. “The requirement of furnishing a bank guarantee should not be done away with to prevent frivolous applicants from applying... However, it should not be an amount that acts as a deterrent for genuine applicants also.”
The Authority has stressed that government funding is not recommended, as the entire purpose of community radio gets lost in such a scenario. “The viability of any community based project is dependent on its internal fund raising mechanism rather than external funding.” However, Trai has clarified that any organisation engaged in social, cultural developmental work in any community and getting government funding for the same will not be disqualified from getting such funds if they set up community radio station.