Millennium Post

Ministry waives off spectrum fee for community radio service

In a landmark decision taken by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, spectrum fee has been completely been waived off for community radio services in the country. On 9 July, this newspaper had reported that the communications minister Kapil Sibal would waive community radio license fee completely.

Sibal told Millennium Post, 'I have passed the orders on making the community radio services free, while some guidelines have to be framed. I had taken the decision to make them free much earlier. [The information and broadcasting minister] Ambika Soni also had a word with me, but I had already decided on it. I had already given instructions to remove the waiver, because some analysis was going on how much revenue is likely to be lost. That took some time.'

Soni said, 'I took up this issue and spoke to Kapil Sibal, the finance minster and other ministers regarding it. I asked my ministry to prepare a note on this. The reach of community radio is immense, and it is a perfect institution for national integration and to take pride in. … It is an amazing tool which helps in connecting people across the nation. Today Sibal told me that he has ordered to cancel all license fee on community radio, even though many people in his department were not in favour of it.'

'It is a very positive approach which the government has taken. Even the Supreme Court, in its judgement on Thursday, had said that money should not be made the principle condition in allocating natural resources,' Soni added.

Applauding the decision, Sajan Venniyoor, a founder member of the Community Radio Forum, said, 'We are thrilled with this decision. The Millennium Post prediction came absolutely true: it is a complete waiver, and not a roll-back [of the increased fee].'

While Osama Manzar from the Digital Empowerment Forum said, 'There was a lot of anxiety amongst everyone. But after this decision what is pleasantly surprising is that it is a full waiver [of the spectrum fee] and not just the roll-back.'

The communications ministry said that this decision was taken after constant requests were made by the National Advisory Council, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Community Radio Association.
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