New Delhi: Broadcast “public interest announcements” for one hour every day, or face penalties — the Modi government has issued an advisory to Indian radio channels that has left the latter far from pleased.
Released on 6 July by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the advisory says the announcements will be dictated by the central and state governments.
“The permission holder (FM radio channels) shall also broadcast public interest announcements as may be required by the central government/concerned state government for a maximum of one hour per day suitable/proportional time slots interspersed during that day shall be earmarked for this purpose,” it says.
The central government, it adds, has to be given priority in the hour-long slot. If it exceeds its time limit, the state governments will be given the residual window.
According to the advisory, the government will have the right to impose penalties as specified under an agreement — Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA)/Migration Grant of Permission Agreement (MGOPA) — if the operators violate any terms and conditions.
ThePrint has a copy of the advisory signed by FM cell Additional Director Yogendra Trehan and marked to the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), the official association of private commercial radio stations.
FM players say there have been similar advisories from the I&B Ministry in the past, but it is the first time that penalties have been mentioned.
This reporter reached I&B Secretary Apurva Chandra by WhatsApp for a comment on these allegations, but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
ThePrint reached the AROI general secretary, but they refused comment, saying a statement will be made after “internal discussion”.
Off the record, industry players say the advisory is “confusing”, alleging that it is not clear whether the government will be paying for broadcasting these announcements.
An official from the private radio industry questioned the government’s intent behind issuing the advisory.
“The radio industry has been performing really well in terms of informing the public on important issues in the country. We were especially active during the peak of the Covid pandemic. Public interest announcements have been very common in our broadcasts,” the official said.
“They (read, the central and state governments) anyway have slashed ads. We have suffered financially. There have been no talks of concessions or any kind of help to revive the industry despite so many letters to the I&B Ministry,” the official said. “They just want to keep releasing these diktats to control us.”
(Edited by Tony Rai)