TRAI seeks views of stakeholders on consultative paper

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has decided to follow a public consultative process with respect to the licensing process before finalising its recommendations. It released a consultation paper seeking the comments and views of stakeholders on issues relating to Community Radio Stations.

On the release of the paper Ram Bhat from Maraa is of the opinion that, “Actually, I&B had asked TRAI to only comment on the GOPA extension/renewal issue, but it is commendable that TRAI has taken the opportunity to raise a number of other pertinent issues up for discussion”.

Some of the issues raised in the consultative paper are the terms of permission, broadcasting of community news and current affairs, duration of advertisements, operation of Community Radio Stations during emergency situations and growth and spread of Community Radio Stations in India.

A number of questions pertaining to these issues have been raised in the paper and comments as well as counter comments have been invited till 11th June 2014 and 18th June 2014.

R Sreedher, Media Expert and Community Radio Practitioner, on the release of the paper stated that, “I wish that in addition to GOPA and licensing, monitoring, review processes, we must look into sustainability issues. Spectrum pricing is crucial, but there is no mention about freeing the spectrum from licensing”. He was also of the opinion that, “TRAI must look into the digital radio and may also look into the issue of simulcast before complete switch over to digital”.

Till date, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued 461 Letter of Intent (LOIs) for setting up of Community Radio Stations in various parts of country. Out of the 461 LOI holders, 200 have signed the Grant of Permission Agreement. And, at present out of the 200, 171 Community Radio Stations are operational.

The Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA) is an agreement that is made between the applicant and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting specifying the terms and conditions for operating a Community Radio Station.

The Community Radio Stations issued permission under the 2006 policy guidelines informed that the validity of their GOPA was to expire in 2014. At this point the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MoIB) requested the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to examine the issues arising out of the expiry of the period of GOPA and provide its recommendations.

Author: CRFC