Clashing frequencies provoke some loud thinking

Nidhi Misra writes on the issue of frequency clashes that have been an area of rising concern amongst Community Radio operators

Bangalore based media and arts collective, Maara, has launched a website that maps all the Community Radio stations across the country. This is an attempt to increase transparency on the allocation of frequencies for Community Radios in India.

The map offers a database of operational as well as non operational Community Radio Stations in the country besides those who have applied for frequencies and are waiting for their Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA) certificate. The website was launched at a meeting on March 26, 2014.

The issue of frequency clash as well as the lack of information on the available frequencies has been an area of rising concern amongst Community Radio operators. At the fourth National Community Radio Sammelan held in New Delhi recently, Pinky Chandran, Director of Radio Active, a Bangalore based Community Radio Station, raised the issue and how the Government was not very proactive with regard to addressing it.

“Our frequency is 90.4MHz and is shared by another station, this has lead to a lot of disturbance on our channel and thus a loss in the number of listeners and has reduced our reach”, said Pinky. “We have written to the Ministry several times but have received no response from them,” she added, saying, “we are not the only channel that is facing this issue and the Government should take due action.”

The issue of frequency clashes also brings up the matter of reach of a Community Radio Station. According to Community Radio practitioner and expert, Dr R Sreedher, the government allows for a 50 watt transmitter with a 100 watt ERP to cover a range up to 10 km. “Anything beyond that is a bonus,” he says. “But the WPC must intervene where there is a frequency clash within the 10 km radius,” he says.

The issue of frequency clashes also brings to the fray the challenge of rationalising Community Radio Stations across the country. Certain areas of the country like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andra Pradesh have the maximum number of radio stations while the states of the North East have almost none.

Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, insisted that over the next few years the Government would work towards building both the quantity and the quality of Community Radios across India.

“The second part is also how to see that the radio stations are coming to areas where they are actually needed, like the marginalized areas, areas which are disturbed because of some kind of extremist activity or areas which are very remote or very interior” Sahu said.

“So, bringing together these areas into the fold of the Community Radio sector will be a very big challenge for us,” Supriya Sahu said. “We will have to make sure that the allocation of frequencies happens in such a way that there is a fairly good representation of the diversity and the complexity of the Indian ethos that we have into the sector.”