Regulation and licensing are meant not only to provide a system of policies and practices to ensure fair access and usage of resources, but also to check misuse of resources without infringing upon the right of free expression.
Community radio as a medium has enabled common citizens to have access and to participate in the medium. It’s been a decade since the government of India unveiled its first CR policy in December 2002. The aim is to enable hundreds of CR stations to come up in the country, making it the world’s largest broadcasting network of CR stations. But even after a decade, we have just have about 140 CR stations.
Seized of the unrealised potential of CR in the country, the government has embarked upon the simplification of the approval process and establishment of a coordination mechanism. It’s also proposed to establish a single window clearance mechanism. A CR Facilitation Centre set up in the Ministry with the support of Ford Foundation is already helping applicants in the approval process of their pending applications. The waiver of spectrum fee for community radio is on the cards. To help CR stations achieve financial sustainability, the 12th Five Year Plan provides for financial resources to new and existing CR stations.
Clearly, while many steps have been taken or are in the pipeline to promote CR in India, much more needs to be done to exploit the full potential of the medium in the country.
In this scenario, this brief international consultation aims at getting an insight into the legislations and good practices of other countries, comparing these with Indian examples, and assessing what’s relevant in the Indian context. The consultation is expected to lead to guidance for better regulatory and licencing policies in the county to enable citizens to have easier and free access to community radio and use it for development. The guidance is expected to feed into the proceedings of the Third CR National Sammelan on Community Radio, which follows the international consultation.
Some of the thrust areas which are expected to come up for discussion during this consultation include the creation of a conducive environment for access, the role of a regulator, allocation and pricing of spectrum, content regulation and monitoring, self-regulation and monitoring by local communities, compliance bodies etc.