Availability of frequency range remains an issue

The lack of a comprehensive tool to map frequencies has led to frequency clashes which in turn has led to a loss of information for Radio Stations. New stations are unaware of areas that are saturated and other areas that may not have any radio stations at all.

The Community Radio sector in India has grown exponentially over the last decade. The country now has 167 functional radio stations across both rural and urban India. While this growth has resulted in a more effective process of information sharing it run into issues of an insufficient frequency range.

Typically a CR station has a frequency range of 10 to 15 kilometers which, in the case of educational institutions, is often not enough. Institutions that have a sprawling campus are unable to reach out to the community beyond their campus.

Pinky Chandran, Mentor and Anchor at Radio Active a CR station in Bangalore, Karnataka believes that the government should revisit their policy on CR, “The time has come for the government to think of a comprehensive spectrum allocation plan that apart I also believe that there has to be more frequencies reserved for CR stations.”

While the CR policy clearly states that every CR station must specify who their community is their policy of not allowing educational institutions or KVK’s to place the transmitter outside their campus acts as a hurdle in their functioning. Rukmini Vemaraju, an independent Community Media Expert says that given that the reach of the station is only about 10-15 kilometers, in very large campuses two-thirds of the listening zone would be within the campus and the students are not necessarily their community because the policy binds them to reach out to the community outside the campus. “It falls between two stools, when students are in their classes they are not listening to the stations and when they go home they live outside the hearing zone. It does not make a huge amount of sense to say that students are the community because they are not in the listening zone.” said Vemaraju.

The inefficiency of frequency allocation has resulted in the stifling of CR stations. Stations that have been awarded a Letter of Intent and the number of applicants who are awating frequencies now exceeds those who are operational. ” While the I&B Ministry has been proactive in clearing licenses, their counterparts at WPC have been slow in allocating frequencies. There are fundamental and important reasons for this semi-paralysis in the sector,” says Ram Bhatt, Vice President of AMARC Asia-Pacific. Bhatt added that on the other hand, grassroots community groups in urban areas are being told that frequencies are unavailable and so there is a real and present danger of urban community radio stations being crowded out of the top radio markets.