What is a Community Radio Station (CRS) & How to Start & Setup a Community Radio Station on FM?

What is a Community Radio Station (CRS)? How to Start a Community Radio Station?

How to Start a Community Radio Station India

Community Radio Stations (CRSs) are essentially low-power radio stations created, set up, broadcasted & run by the local communities. Community radios (CRSs) are build to be rooted in the local community and are owned and managed by the community itself. It is the only platform that allows the locals in the community to broadcast their voice, talents in their dialect, language & cultures. The CRS permissions are granted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, India to educational institutions, agricultural institutions, and civil society organizations that are not-for-profit organizations.

Community Radio (CR) is important in radio broadcasting, distinct from public service and commercial media. In the last few years, this sector has been growing effectively in India. This platform gives a distinct advantage to focus on local issues concerning health, nutrition, education, agriculture, etc. Moreover, the Community Radio sector offers a powerful medium to marginalized groups to voice their concerns.
Furthermore, since the broadcast is in local languages and dialects, people can relate to it instantly. It provides a platform to air local voices on issues concerning their lives.

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Definitive Guide with Policy Guidelines: How to Setup & Broadcast a Community Radio Station (CRS)

How to Start an Community Radio Station

Below is the in-depth guide including the policy & guidelines for setting up & broadcasting a community radio station in India. All the points are drafted after an in-depth study of the policy guidelines from the Ministry of Information & broadcasting website.

Lets Begin:

People`s Participation in Broadcasting a Community Radio Station 

Community radio also has the potential to strengthen people’s participation in development programs. In a country like India, where every state has its own language and distinctive cultural identity, CRSs are also a repository of local folk music and cultural heritage. Many CRSs record and preserve local songs for posterity and give local artists a platform to showcase their talent to the community. The unique position of CRS as an instrument of positive social change makes it an ideal tool for community empowerment.

The final license agreement is called GOPA– The GRANT OF PERMISSION AGREEMENT to broadcast, maintain and operate a community radio station. The agreement is made between the President of India acting the Deputy Director (CRS), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi, hereinafter called the Grantor and the Permission Holder.
The permit holder has to apply under the Policy Guidelines for setting up Community Radio Stations in India to create, broadcast & operate a community radio station. You can download the PDF copy here.

Beforehand, the permit holder has to obtain the frequency and SACFA clearance and shall obtain Wireless Operating License (WOL) before commissioning the community radio services.

Download Application forms for starting a community radio station in India

  1. Community Radio Application Form
  2. Applicants who wish to Apply for SACFA download the copy Here.
  3. Applicants who wish to apply for the GOPA can Download the application in PDF Here.

Policy Guidelines for Starting a Community Radio Stations

  1. Initially, the permission is given on a non-exclusive basis for a period of five (5) years to establish, maintain and operate a community radio station. The Permission is non-transferable. The Permission Holder shall not either directly or indirectly assign or transfer its right in any manner whatsoever to any other party. Any violation is likely to result in the termination of the license.
  2. The Permission holder has to maintain the validity of the bank guarantee in favor of the Grantor for a sum of Rs.25,000/-
    The Permission holder is not eligible for more than one Permission for Community Radio Station operation at one or more places. However, Central/ State Universities, including autonomous bodies and Agricultural Universities set up under them, having more than one campus, may be allowed to operate CRS at more than one place, provided, the distance between two CR Stations established by the same organization should not be
    less than 25 Kms.
  3. The CRS to be operated by the permit holder should be designed to serve a specific well-defined local community.
    The broadcaster has to ensure that there is sufficient representation of the members of the community which the CRS seeks to serve, at all times during the currency of permission, in the ownership and management structure of the CRS.
  4. The GOPA shall be extended for a period of five (5) years at a time. The first extension shall be granted based on an application and verification of adherence to the terms and conditions of the permission. The application for extension shall be submitted in the fourth year of operation.
  5. For the second extension i.e., extension beyond ten (10) years, the continuous operation of CRS by the permit holder for 10 years will be treated as a ground for the extension. CRS should submit their application for an extension of permission one year before the end of the permission period.

Broadcasting of the Content & Regulations  

The permission holder should adhere to the following principles in the broadcast of programs through the CRS:

  1. The programs should be of immediate relevance to the community. The emphasis should be on developmental, agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development, and cultural programs. The programming should reflect the special interests and
    needs of the local community.
  2. At least 50% of content shall be generated with the participation of the local community, for which the station has been set up.
    iii) Programmes should preferably be in the local language and dialect(s).
  3. The permit holder shall have to adhere to the provisions of the Programme and Advertising Code as prescribed for All India Radio.
  4. The permit holder shall not broadcast any programs, which relate to news and current affairs and are otherwise political in nature. However, CRS can broadcast news and current affairs content sourced exclusively from All India Radio (AIR) in its original form or translated into the local language /dialect. AIR shall source its news to CRS without any charges. It will be the responsibility of the CRS permission holder to ensure that the news is not distorted or edited during translation.

Broadcast Catagories

The broadcast about the following categories will be treated as nonnews and current affairs broadcast and will therefore be permissible:

  1. Information about sporting events excluding live coverage.
    However, live commentaries of sporting events of local nature may be permissible.
  2. Information about Traffic and Weather.
  3. Information about and coverage of local cultural events, festivals.
  4. Coverage of topics about examinations, results, admissions, career counseling.
  5. Availability of employment opportunities.
  6. Public announcements about civic amenities like electricity, water supply, natural calamities, health alerts, etc. as provided by the local administration.
  7. Such other categories are not permitted at present that may subsequently be specifically permitted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting from time to time.
  8. The Permission holder shall ensure that nothing is included in the programs broadcast which:
    a. Offends against good taste or decency;
    b. Contains criticism of friendly countries;
    c. Contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words
    contemptuous of religious groups or which either promote or result in promoting communal discontent or disharmony;
    d. Contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and
    suggestive innuendoes and half-truths;
    e. Is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes;
    f. Contains anything amounting to contempt of court
    g. Contains anything affecting the integrity of the Nation;
    h. Contains aspersions against the dignity of the President/Vice President and the Judiciary;
    i. Criticizes, maligns, or slanders any individual in person or certain
    groups, segments of the social, public, and moral life of the country;
    j. Encourages superstition or blind belief;
    k. Denigrates women;
    l. Denigrates children.
    m. May present/depict/suggest as desirable the use of drugs including alcohol, narcotics, and tobacco or may stereotype, incite, vilify or perpetuate hatred against or attempt to demean any person or group based on ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual preference, religion, age or physical or mental disability.
  9. The permit holder shall ensure that due care is taken concerning religious programs to avoid:
    a. Exploitation of religious susceptibilities; and
    b. Committing offense to the religious views and beliefs of those belonging to a particular religion or religious denomination.

Transmitter Power and Range

The Permission holder shall ensure that the transmission equipment including the antenna conforms to the following technical parameters: –
i) Power of transmitter: ERP up to 100 Watts
ii) Height of antenna above ground: Up to 30 meters. However, the minimum height of the Antenna above ground should be at least 15 meters to prevent the possibility of biological hazards of RF radiation.
iii) Antenna location has to be within the geographical area of the community sought to be served)

Funding & Sustenance

  1. The permit holder will be eligible to seek funding from multilateral aid agencies after obtaining FCRA clearance under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 1976.
  2. Transmission of sponsored programs shall not be permitted except programs sponsored by Central & State Governments and other organizations to broadcast public interest information. Besides, limited advertising and announcements relating to local events, local businesses and services, and employment opportunities shall be allowed. The maximum duration of such limited advertising will be restricted to 7 (Seven) minutes per hour of broadcast.
  3. Revenue generated from the transmission of sponsored programs, advertisements, and announcements as per para (7.2) above, shall be utilized only for the operational expenses and capital expenditure of the Community Radio Station. After meeting the full financial needs of the Community Radio
    Station, surplus funds may, with the prior written permission of the Grantor, be plowed into the primary activity of the organization i.e. for education in the case of educational institutions and for furthering the primary objectives for which the NGO concerned was established.
  4. The Permission holder shall be required to submit their audited annual accounts to the Grantor in respect of the organization/division running the Community Radio Station. The accounts shall clearly show the income and expenditure incurred and the Assets and Liabilities in respect of the Community Radio Station. The annual audited accounts/balance sheets for each Financial Year will be submitted within one month of their finalization but not later than 30th September of the following Financial Year.
  5. The Grantor (Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, India) shall have the right to get the accounts of the CRS audited by CAG or any other professional auditors at their discretion. In case of difference, the views of the government-appointed auditors, subject to the opportunity of hearing to the Permission Holder, shall prevail.

Monitoring and Public complaints:

  1. The Permission holder at its own cost shall,
    i) preserve the recordings of broadcast material for a period of three months from the date of broadcast and produce the same to the Grantor or its authorized representative, as and when required, and
    ii) on demand by the Grantor, provide the necessary equipment, services and
    facilities at designated place (s) for continuous monitoring of the broadcasting service by or under supervision of the Grantor.
  2. The Permission holder shall submit such information concerning its broadcast as may be required by the Grantor from time to time.
  3. The Permission Holder shall furnish any such information at periodic intervals as may be required by the Grantor concerning Programme Content and Quality, Technical Parameters, etc. relating to the broadcast in the format as may be prescribed by the Grantor from time to time.
  4. The Grantor shall make special arrangements for monitoring and enforcement of the ceiling on advertisements, particularly in those areas where private FM radio stations have been granted licenses and the permit holder shall extend full cooperation.

Inspection in the Community Radio Station Broadcasting Premises

  1. The Grantor or its authorized representative shall have the right to inspect the broadcasting facilities. The Grantor shall, in particular, but not limited to, have the right to access the Community radio station infrastructure and records. No prior permission/intimation shall be required to exercise the right
    of the Grantor to carry out the inspection. The permit holder will, if required by the Grantor or its authorized representative, provide necessary facilities for continuous monitoring for any particular aspect of the permit holder’s activities and operations.
  2. The Grantor will ordinarily inspect reasonable notice except in circumstances where giving such a notice will defeat the very purpose of the inspection.
  3. Force Majeure-  If at any time, during the continuance of this Permission, the performance of any obligation either in whole or in part by any party is prevented or delayed, because of war, hostility, acts of the enemy, civil commotion, sabotage, fire, flood, the act of State, explosion, epidemic, quarantine restriction, natural calamities, general strikes materially affecting the performance of any obligations of the affected party, or act of God (all or any of these hereinafter referred to as “Force Majeure Event”, neither party shall, because of such Force Majeure event be entitled to terminate this Permission, nor shall either party have any claim for damages against the other, in respect of such nonperformance or delay in performance, provided a notice of such happenings of any such Force Majeure Event is given by the affected party to the unaffected party within 30 days from the date of occurrence thereof.

National security and other conditions

  1. The Grantor reserves the right to take over the entire services and networks of the Permission holder or revoke/terminate/suspend the Permission in the interest of national security or the event of national emergency/ war or low-intensity conflict or under a similar type of situations.
  2. All the foreign personnel likely to be deployed by way of appointment, contract, consultancy, etc. by the Permission Holder for installation, maintenance, and operation of the Permission Holder’s services shall be required to obtain prior security clearance from the Government of India.
  3. Notwithstanding anything contained anywhere else in the Grant of Permission Agreement, the Grantor shall have the power to direct the permit holder to broadcast any special message as may be considered desirable to meet any contingency arising out of natural emergency, or public interest or natural disaster and the like, and the Permission holder shall be obliged to comply with such directions.
  4. The permission is subject to the permit holder’s remaining security cleared throughout the currency of permission. In case the security clearance has withdrawn the permission granted under this agreement is liable to be terminated forthwith.
  5. In the event of the security clearance of any of the persons associated with the permit holder or foreign personnel is withdrawn for any reasons whatsoever, the permit holder will ensure that the concerned person resigns or his services terminated forthwith after receiving such directives from the Grantor, failing which the permission granted shall be liable to be

Power to modify the terms and conditions.

  1. The Grantor reserves the right to modify, at any time, the terms and conditions if it is necessary to do so, in the public interest or for the proper conduct of broadcasting or security considerations. This Agreement will be subject to such other conditions as may be determined by the Grantor.

Termination of Permission- Consequences of non-operationalization

  1. The permit holder shall operationalize the radio station within three months of the signing of the agreement failing which the permission granted may be revoked after affording an opportunity of being heard. The permit holder shall also forfeit the bank guarantee to the Grantor if the Permission holder fails to commission the radio station within the stipulated
  2. Shutting down operations- In case of the Permission holder shutting down broadcasting activity for
    more than 3 months after commencement of operation, its Permission is liable to be canceled and the frequency allotted to the next eligible applicant.
  3. Transfer of permission- In case of transfer of permission in violation of clause 4.1, the permission is
    liable to be terminated and neither the permission holder nor the transferee will be eligible to apply directly or indirectly for fresh permission in the future for a period of five years. Besides, the permit holder shall also forfeit the bank guarantee to the Grantor.
  4. Consequences of misuse and non-compliance with directives: In the event of a Permission Holder using or letting its facilities being used for transmitting any unauthorized content, messages, or communication or failing to comply with the directions, the permission granted shall be revoked and the Permission holder shall be disqualified to hold any such permission in future for a period of five years, apart from liability for punishment under other applicable laws. The Permission holder shall also forfeit the bank guarantee to the government in such cases.
  5. Termination for Non-eligibility- The Government may, at any time, terminate this Agreement and the Permission, without compensation to the Permission Holder in case the company fails to meet the eligibility criteria as laid down in the Guidelines at any time during the currency of permission or its security clearance is withdrawn, provided that such termination shall not prejudice or affect any right of action which has accrued or will accrue thereafter to the Grantor. Besides, the permit holder shall also forfeit the bank guarantee to the Grantor.
  6. Failure to preserve recordings- In the event of non-compliance the permission granted may be revoked. Besides, the permit holder shall also forfeit the bank guarantee to the Grantor.
  7. Violation in other cases- In case, there is any violation of conditions cited by the Permission holder, the Grantor may suo motto or based on the complaint(s) take cognizance and place the matter before the Interministerial Committees on Programme and Advertising Codes for recommending appropriate penalties. On the recommendation of the Committee, a decision to impose penalties shall be taken. Besides, the permit holder shall also forfeit the bank guarantee to the Grantor.

14.7.2 In case of non-compliance / violation of any other terms and conditions the penalty shall comprise of:
i) Temporary suspension of Permission for operating the Community Radio Station for a period of up to one month in the case of the first violation
ii) Temporary suspension of Permission for operating the Community Radio Station for a period of up to three months in the case of the second violation depending on the gravity of the violation.
iii) Revocation of the Permission for any subsequent violation. Besides, the Permission Holder and its principal members shall be liable for appropriate actions under IPC, CrPC, and other applicable laws.

WPC Wing’s Permission:

Before operating the CRS a separate specific license i.e. Wireless Operational License shall be obtained by the Permission Holder from the WPC Wing of Ministry of Communications &IT, permitting utilization of appropriate frequencies/band for the establishment and operation of concerned wireless component of CRS under usual terms and conditions of such license.

For this purpose, an application has to be made to the Wireless Advisor to the Government of India, WPC Wing, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications & IT in the prescribed application form.

License fee/royalty as prescribed by WPC from time to time, have to be paid by the Permission holder towards grant of License for the usage of the frequency spectrum.
The permission holder should not cause harmful interference to other unauthorized users of the radio spectrum. WPC Wing will have the sole discretion to take practicable and necessary steps for the elimination of harmful interference, if any, to other licensed users.
The Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing, Ministry of Communications & IIT shall have the right to inspect from time to time the installation from technical angles to check conformity with WOL conditions.