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Change in community radio policy on the anvil: Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary, I&B

Feb 09, 2013

Joint Secretary Supriya Sahu says she looks forward to community radio representatives sharing their challenges at the third Community Radio Sammelan being held at New Delhi from the 9th of February.

OneWorld South Asia: This is the third Community RadioSammelan, and also one where we are commemorating the completion of 10 years of Community Radio. What are your expectationfrom the Sammelan?

Supriya Sahu: This year is very special as we are celebrating a decade of Community Radio in India. In terms of numbers and also in terms of issues that we will discuss, I am sure the Sammelan will discuss many more important issues. We are just getting over the basic fundamental issues.We have had good discussions in the previous Sammelans about licensing; how do we simplify it;and, how do we coordinate better for increased numbers of Community RadioStations. So these issues are relatively under control.

But there are many more (issues). Like better spectrum planning; can we allow Community RadioStations to air news; and, also sustainability and funding issues, capacity building issues. So we have many more new challenges and we hope we have a very good brain storming session coming up.

OWSA: There are many new stations in attendance. What are your expectations from the stations?

Sahu: They should not be just spectators at the conference. We should not just let people who can speak well to lead the sessions – people who have come from very small stations should also come up and share their challenges. We are not looking at negatives in this conference; we are looking at positives, and taking stock of how the positive thoughts and actions have done in the last three years, and what we haven’t been able to do in the last ten years.

If we all come together and think positively, we will go far ahead. These years are very crucial as these are not formative years. The formative years are behind us. It is the year of consolidation – a year when we make new strategies for fanning out into very part of the country.

OWSA: What about taking it to the next level. Would there be any discussions of how to take Community Radioforward now that a decade has gone?

Two things will be discussed. One, we will look at changing the policy and also changing the action plan. If you look at the policy, many changes are coming into it. We have had a group constituted to work on the policy issuesand (this group) has deliberated and given us a draft. So now the draft policy is ready to be put into the public domain. What we want from this conference is to get inputs from the public. I am sure it will be a very dynamic policy, after the inputs from the conference are taken in.

On the matter of action. (Issues we have before us include) better coordination with WPC, single window clearance mechanism, faster approvals. The enhanced spectrum fee has us concerned, which has increased to Rs 91,000. Though are reports of the waiver, we have not heard from DOT formally. So we look forward to a release of a formal order and want stations to know that they don’t need to pay such a high fee.

OWSA: Last year there was an exciting announcement that DAVP rates were revised. What are your views on the DAVP empanelment scenario?

Sahu: What we find is that we need to really motivate a large number of Community RadioStations to empanel. Initially we thought that the procedure was complex, that’s why people did not empanel. We have only 35 CR stations empanelled with DAVP. But now we have simplified the procedure. We give provisional DAVP registration; so if you do not have a renewed WOL and have applied for it we will still give you empanelment.

But somehow there is a lot of hesitation among the CR stations and we need to get to the depth of their hesitation. Ministries and departments have broken the barriers and are coming out. We have just received a letter from the Ministry of Women and Child Development indicating that they want to engage with Community RadioStations and are willing to spend as much as Rssix crores over a period of three years. But where are the Community Radio stations to utilise their funds? I hope the session dealing with this, gives me some insight into why this is happening.

OWSA: Tell us something about the process of going through the nominations for the awards?

Sahu: The nominations were very encouraging. A large number of people applied. We received 91 nominations. The results will be out on the last day when the Minister will distribute the awards. Since the criteria were very strict, we were worried people might not apply. But they did. The decisions were made in a transparent manner and by an independent jury.

It is an occasion to celebrate, it is an occasion to be happy.

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