| 29 Nov 2023
Parliamentary Committee worried by slow pace of community radio growth

NEW DELHI: A Parliamentary Committee has expressed ‘concern’ that the information and broadcasting ministry was able to spend only Rs 1.90 crore for expanding and helping the community radio movement against an allocation of Rs 6.3 crore made in Budget Estimates (BE) for the year 2015-16. This amount was reduced to Rs 2.7 crore at the Revised Estimates (RE) stage.

The Standing Committee for Information Technology, which examines issues relating to I and B, noted that during 2015-16, the amount of Rs 75 lakh allocated to the North-East region was kept idle as no operational station or Letter of Intent holder from the North-East Region applied for financial assistance.

The ministry informed the Committee which comprises members of both Houses of Parliament, that grants to some Community Radio Stations which had submitted claim forms could not be released in the year 2015-16 due to shortfall of funds. had reported in March that the ministry intends to -take the growth of community radio seriously henceforth. Read here

The Committee said: “It is disquieting to note that out of an approved outlay of Rs 100 crore in the 12th Plan for this Scheme, only Rs 7.24 crore that is a little over seven per cent could be utilized during the first four years of the Plan Period."

The reasons cited by the ministry for the under-utilisation of the funds included systemic procedural delays in obtaining approvals at different stages, less number of applications for financial assistance, utilisation for innovation grants remained less than anticipated etc.

The ministry also said under the Scheme for financial assistance, 50 per cent of the cost of equipment is to be borne by the applicant and the grass-root organisations are not in a position to mobilise their part of the 50 per cent expenditure, resulting in receipt of less number of applicants.

Challenges such as lack of awareness, complex licensing procedure, technical information and training, lack of community involvement and sustainability are coming in the way of the launching of new Community Radio stations, the ministry said in its statement to the Committee.

Keeping in view the slow pace of utilisation of funds and challenges in the execution of the Scheme, the Committee said the existing financial subsidy structure “perhaps needs a re-look to make the Scheme more viable and attractive for the target group”.

In the light of the fact that Community Radio Stations is one of the thrust areas of the 12th Plan, it is imperative on the part of the government to take this policy initiative forward. “There appears a need to increase subsidy support for opening the CRS and their sustenance. At the same time, as factored into in the existing financial model, the element of accountability on the part of the operating entities should be suitably incorporated in the proposed model, it said.

The Committee had been informed that the Academy of Management Studies (AMS), Lucknow, is conducting a study on the effectiveness of Community Radios. The Committee desires that it be apprised of the findings of this study and the action taken thereon to strengthen the Community Radio Movement in India.

The policy guidelines for permitting community radio stations (CRS) was introduced in 2002 and initially, only educational institutions were allowed to operate the CRS. These guidelines were revised in 2006 to broaden the eligibility criteria and allow community based organisations, including civil societies and voluntary organisations, State Agriculture Universities etc. to operate CRS.