Thursday, December 29, 2005

Community Radio in India

Narayana Murthy blasts politicians

The above is an report about an address by My. Narayan Murthy at the National Institute of Technology in Bangalore. His main point being the widespread corruption in all walks of life and how it is in the interest of the politicians to maintain status quo by letting people by illiterate, ignorant and uninformed.
An interesting portion regarding the use of radio and government policy about it is:
Giving an example, he said India's private radio stations are only allowed to broadcast entertainment and not news and information programmes. "There is absolutely no good reason for this restriction. Only reason is they (politicians) do not want the poor people to know what's happening in the country."

Murthy pointed out that radio is a low-cost media with the highest penetration in India-- it reaches 27 of every 100 households in the country. It is easily accessible to low-income, illiterate people and can be an important source of knowledge, news and information.

On the related topic of opening up the radio waves in India for community radio a
link from IndiaTogether: Radio policy: untying the knots.
TRAI asked the government to drop the bidding-driven process for setting radio license fees because it was this system that led to the viability crisis. The regulator prefers a system more prevalent elsewhere in India and worldwide - revenue sharing. Under this system, stations will pay the government 4% of their gross revenue every year. Second, the regulator advised the Ministry to review its ban on private stations airing news and current affairs, currently a monopoly with All India Radio. In fact, TRAI stopped just short of asking for an outright removal of the ban.

The Ministry rejected the revenue sharing model, stating that if that were implemented, the government would suffer a decrease in fee collections of over Rs.100 crores. It further argued against revenue sharing saying that it could not be sure it was getting its fair share from the stations because it could not verify the revenues of every radio station.

To TRAI's recommendation to review the ban on news, the Ministry has said the ban will remain. And here too, the 'monitoring' argument made an appearance. The Ministry feels it will be unable to monitor news on local stations and that this constituted a grave security threat.

An ironic point being that the government has given a free hand for other kinds of media (newspapers, TV) and wonder why they are not considered a security threat?---both of them having considerable reach audience.

Community radio according to me is a great tool for local broadcasting, which can be used very effectively to broadcast not only news, but programs concering local issues, educational programs, local announcements etc etc. Hopefully the Broadcasting Ministry will consider the TRAI recommendations open up the airwaves for community radio.

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