Sibal waives community radio license fee

The incisive letter that the National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy wrote to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi on 6 July has had desired effect. Roy had opposed the five-fold increase in license fee for community radios, as per sources. The sources have told Millennium Post that the communications minister Kapil Sibal has decided to scrap the fee for community radio stations altogether.

Read follow-up report here.

Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology have said that Sibal has issued instructions to R Chandrashekhar, a secretary in the Department of Telecommunications, to waive off all license fee for community radio stations. It will come as a huge relief to such radio stations.

In a letter addressed to Gandhi, Roy had highlighted  the issue 'regarding the exorbitant fivefold license fee hike from Rs 19,700 to Rs 91,000 by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.'

In her petition to Gandhi, Roy pointed out the following: 'The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has been largely supportive of Community Radio and I&B Secretary Uday Kumar Varma has written a letter to the Secretary DoT, R Chandrashekhar to reconsider the hiking of the fees in May 2012.'

Roy's petition also had support of many community radio organisations, like the Digital Empowerment Forum, Barefoot College and the gram panchayat of Dandasli. Roy reminded Gandhi in the letter that earlier a similar petition was sent to her by the community radio activist Stalin K.

Roy also said, 'Community radio operators have been petitioning since then for an exemption in spectrum fees and are now instead faced with this mammoth fee increase, which will surely kill this fledgling initiative.'

'Community radio is a powerful tool for the poor, not-for-profit companies meant to serve society. They have enormous benefits as an information and communication tool and are being used to great effect all over the country,' added Roy in the letter.
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