The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has floated a consultation paper to seek stakeholder views on licensing of community radio stations. This comes after the Information & Broadcasting Ministry has sought recommendations from the Authority on amendments in policy guidelines for setting up community radio stations.

Community Radio Stations (CRS) serve a local and well-defined community focusing on the day-to-day concerns, specific information and entertainment needs.

The Authority has sought views on various issues including inclusion of not-for-profit companies, registered under Section 8 of Companies Act 2013 in the list of eligible organisations that can set up community radio stations.

The consultation paper has also sought views from the stakeholders on whether the prescribed licence period for community radio stations should be increased for a period of 10 years from the existing five years. Issues regarding whether there is need to revise the prescribed limit of seven minutes for ads for each hour of broadcast.

Other issues include whether not-for-profit organisations operating in multiple districts should be allowed to set up multiple CRS in their area of operation subject to certain conditions and if there is a need to put a cap on the number of stations operated by NGOs.

In addition, the Authority has sought views on the reasons why the CRS segment has been slow and measures that need to be taken to promote faster growth in the segment in India.

Currently, 356 CRS are operational in the country. “These CRS provide developmental, agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development and cultural programmes for meeting the special interests and needs of the local communities,” TRAI said. However the telecom and broadcast regulator noted that in India there are only 0.26 stations per million people which is very low as compared to other countries.