MIB’s Measures to Ensure Growth of Community Radio Sector

To promote community radio, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has revised the policy guidelines for the setting up of community radio stations, introducing several key changes.

In the year 2002, the Government approved a policy for the grant of licenses for the setting up of community radio stations. Initially, such licenses could be granted only to well-established educational institutions. In February 2004, the country’s first campus community radio station, Anna FM, was launched by the students of Anna University. The pool of eligible organisations was subsequently widened to include community-based organisations. Later, Sangham Radio, the first NGO-operated community radio was launched. There were 140 community radio stations in the country in 2014, and this number has gradually increased to 481 in 2023.[1]

To ensure continued growth of the community radio sector, the Ministry has made several changes to the existing policy guidelines. The revised policy guidelines were unveiled on the occasion of World Radio Day, on February 13, 2024. Some of the notable changes include the grant of permission agreement period being doubled to 10 years and the increase in advertising duration from 7 to 12 minutes per hour of broadcast.

Earlier, if private organisations sought to set up a community radio station in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected or border areas, they were required to provide site security clearance from local administration for the installation at the proposed geocoordinates. The revised policy guidelines do not refer to such a requirement.

To obtain the community radio license, the organisation fulfilling the eligibility criteria has to make an online application and make payment of the applicable processing fee. The revised policy guidelines elaborate on the manner in which the applications are processed, the time schedule for obtaining the clearances, and other key aspects. The list of entities ineligible to run a community radio station has been modified to include religious bodies.

The content broadcasted on the community radio will be decided upon by the members of the advisory and content committee which the licensee will set up. Such members have to be from the local community and half of the members should be women. It is also mandated that at least 50% of the content has to be created with the local community’s participation. At least half of this content should focus on women’s empowerment.