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FM Expansion Coming to India “Soon”

Progress on easing community radio licensing rules also announced

Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Anurag Thakur (center) at the 2023 Regional Community Radio Sammelan (North). (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information & Broadcasting)

Plans for a massive auction FM licenses across India are moving forward, according to Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Anurag Thakur.

“Government is now planning a third batch of e-auction of 808 channels across 284 cities soon to further expand radio services,” Thakur said, according to a report in The Federal newspaper.

Thakur made the announcement on July 23 during the 8th and 9th National Community Radio Awards. The awards were part of the first-ever Regional Community Radio Sammelan (North) in New Delhi. (Sammelan is a Hindi word meaning “conference” or “gathering.”)

Currently, India has 388 private FM radio stations in 284 cities across the country. The new stations would serve Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. Tier-2 cities have a population of 50,000 to 100,000 people; Tier-3 cities have a population of 20,000 to 50,000.

[Related: “India Plans for FM Expansion”]

Thakur also announced that India is working to make it easier for community stations to get licensed. He said that it used to take about four years and thirteen processes to get licensed, but this has been reduced to eight processes and a license can be acquired within six months. Thakur added that the ministry is trying to further reduce the time it takes for community stations to get licensed.

Currently, there are 449 community radio stations across India; 70% of which are in rural areas. More than 120 of those stations launched in the past two years.

According to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, community radio plays an important role in empowering local communities in India where each state has its own language and cultural identity. Community radio stations preserve and promote local music and talent, as well as serve an important educational role on issues like health, nutrition, and agriculture. That community radio stations provide information in local languages and dialects makes it immediately accessible to local listeners.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to see at least one community radio station active in each district of the country, Thakur said, who also noted a desire to see community radio stations work together to share ideas and innovation.

Community Radio Awards

Because the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited the holding of the 8th National Community Radio Awards, this year’s awards covered the 8th and 9th awards periods. The winners were announced July 23, which is also National Broadcasting Day in India marking the first broadcasts of the Radio Club of Bombay in 1923.

The 8th and 9th winners were:

In the Thematic Awards category —

  • First Prize: “Hope Jeene Ki Rah,” Radio Mind Tree in Ambala, Haryana
  • Second Prize: “Adhar O Poshan Bigyan,” Radio Hirakhand in Sambalpur, Odisha
  • Third Prize: “Poshan Shrinkhla,” FM Green in Sabour, Bihar

Most Innovative Community Engagement Awards —

  • First Prize: “Hizra in Between,” Radio SD in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh
  • Second Prize: “Selfie Le Le Re,” Kabir Radio in Sant Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh
  • Third Award: “Book Bugs,” Radio Mind Tree in Ambala, Haryana

Promoting Local Culture Awards —

  • First Prize: “Asmita,” Voice of SOA in Cuttack, Odisha
  • Second Prize: “Revived a Dying Art: Mask & Pot,” Friends FM in Tripura, Agartala
  • Third Prize: “Dadi Ma Ka Batua,” Pantnagar Janvani in Pantnagar

Sustainability Model Awards —

  • First Prize: Radio Hirakhand in Sambhalpur, Odisha
  • Second Prize: Vayalaga Vanoli in Madurai, Tamil Nadu
  • Third Prize: VAGAD Radio 90.8 in Banswara, Rajasthan

In addition to the recognition, National Community Award winners are awarded ₹100,000 ($1,225), ₹75,000 ($915), and ₹50,000 ($610) for first, second, and third place.

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