Multiple clearances remain a deterrent to many stations

A large reason for the stunted growth of the Community Radio sector has been due to the policy of multiple clearances to get the license. Although the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has taken steps to make the process easier it still remains an issue.

The Community Radio Sector has been grappling with the issue of multiple clearances for almost a decade now. Although, the process has been simplified and the Community Radio Facilitation Center has been established by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to guide the applicants the issue of multiple clearances still remains a deterrent for many new stations.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MI&B) is working towards a system of single window clearance said K.S.Rejimon, Director (DAS), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. ” we are aiming towards a single window clearance so that applicants can directly come to the Ministry of I&B and the ministry in turn deals with the respective ministries” he said. Rejimon added that the major delays occur at the level of the Telecommunication Department, ” the prospective applicants have to go a couple of times to get different clearances from each ministry such as frequency allocation,  Standing Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency Allocation (SACFA) clearances and  Wireless Operating Licence (WOL)” said Rejimon.

The first Community Radio Station, Anna Radio,  in India was launched on February 1, 2004 and is run by the Education and Multimedia Research Centre , Anna university community radio pioneered by Dr. R Sreedher.  With respect to the evolution of licensing Dr.Sreedher says that while it has come a long way there is still a lot more to be done, ” During the first registration we had applied through the State Government and even to get the GPS connection we had to go to the Geo Spacial Centre where we had to pay Rs.10,000 to get a GPS connection .The SACFA was through a lot of Ministries as well back then. Today we have come a long way but still a lot more has to be done” he said.

The government has not made headway in bringing the policy of single window clearance into effect, experts are of the opinion that the government is wary about losing power if this policy sees the light of day. Jayalakshmi Chittoor an independent Community Media Expert says that while we talk about a community and we give power to the community when the government thinks of de-licensing or single window , it fears losing its power.”

The government is also weary of whether the power of the license is being giving to the right person or in the right hands. Will they understand the importance of the natural resources? “, said Chittoor,” If they increase the responsibility of the CRFC and ask the applicants to fill all the details and submit all the required drafts together at one counter, it would help them a lot. One programme management unit can also be formed to ease the entire licensing procedure more comprehensive by the ministry. ”

Vinod Pavrala, UNESCO Chair for Community Media, expresses his disregard for the screening committee’s procedure of inviting the applicants to the capital for an interview. ” . Imagine small NGOs or small groups have to come to Delhi all the way to face the big inter-ministerial board. What is happening is that many of them are coming with very candid responses. Everybody comes up with the same questions and just imagine the whole expense, the inter-ministerial committee has no statutory standing. We should simplify this process”, said Pavrala.

Author : CRFC