Affirming it in an official statement, the Ministry of Communications and IT has declared its decision to waive off spectrum fee for Community Radio Services (CRS). The decision comes close on the heels of the requests the ministry received from the National Advisory Council, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and the Community Radio Association for waiving the spectrum charges for CRS.
Sibal to ensure that channel waves are used optimally
Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and IT had asked the Department of Telecom to chalk out detailed guidelines by 12 October, in a bid to ensure that the spectrum is used optimally, and the channels use these airwaves only to inform and empower the common man. This was done considering the fact that the government’s role is to create an enabling environment for CRS. Sibal felt that it was in the interest of an inclusive and informed society that the government provide the spectrum (airwaves) for CRS at zero cost. The official statement by the Minister of Communications and IT communicates that while the waiver may result in an opportunity cost of not more than Rs 25 lakh to the government, the cost is far outweighed by the benefit of informed, empowered and inclusive local communities and nation.
The statement adds that sustainability is the biggest challenge for CRS. Community radio focuses on low cost and low return pattern of operations. Donor funding is crucial for CRS. It adds here that since most donors come from local communities, this financing option is inadequate and is irregular for CRS operating in remote areas and also for the marginalised sections of the society.
CRS play a vital role in building vibrant communities, in mobilising groups to action by informing and empowering citizens, in giving voice to the marginalised groups of society, and in bringing community needs to the attention of local and even national governments. CRS can prove to be an excellent tool for managing plurality in a society and for fostering democracy.
Recently, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) directed Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to stop offering 3G voice and data services outside their licensed zones through roaming pacts.
Airtel, Idea and Vodafone have acquired 3G licenses in a few circles in the country and have signed roaming pacts with each other to let their subscribers use data services across the country. Bharti, Vodafone and Idea currently have licences to operate 3G services in 13, 9 and 11 circles, respectively. They won the bids in the auctions for 3G airwaves in 2010. The administration has not permitted any company to operate 3G services in all the 22 circles of the country.