MoCIT sets terms for frequencies

MoCIT has laid conditions for frequency applicants whose requests have been pending allotments for the past couple of years.

There is now some clarity for over 50 Community Radio applicants waiting to hear the fate of their applications before the Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MoCIT).

The ministry had not communicated with them regarding the status of their applications for more than a year.

The allocation of frequency has been hanging fire for over a year for many a Community Radio applicant as the ministry was in the process of clarifying its policy towards Community Radio Stations.

An interim decision by MoCIT reveals that it requires an undertaking from the applicants clarifying their claims for a frequency.

The undertaking MoCIT seeks wants Community Radio Station applicants to agree the allotment of spectrum is provisional and subject to the government’s decision on allotment and pricing of spectrum.

Further, applicants will have to agree that the allotment of the spectrum would be withdrawn in the event the government deciding to allot spectrum through the auction process and that they would not be refunded the payment they make towards spectrum charges.

Lastly, the undertaking will require the applicants to agree that in the event of their losing the frequency, they would return the transmitting equipment or dispose it off, the procedure for which would be elaborated later.

It might be recalled that in 2012, the ministry had enforced a steep hike the spectrum fee from Rs 19,200 to Rs 91,000. This had led many a radio operating organizations to wonder if there was a rethink in the government on the policy to promote Community Radio.

As the move provoked criticism, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting explained that its views were not sought by MoCIT and strongly advocated for a reversal of the hiked fee as many organizations would not be able to afford the increased fee.

Bowing to pressure brought on it, MoCIT announced a roll back of the spectrum fee and royalty charges till September 2013, pending a re-examination of the matter.

At the ground level, though, the ministry’s decision to reverse its step hardly made a difference. For close to two years now, the Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing has not entitled any station to a frequency. In short, organizations with a license from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to operate a Community Radio Station have been halted in their tracks.