Private FM and community radio service operators in India, unlike their vis-a-vis in foreign countries, will not get a chance to air news and current affairs programmes in the near future and the government’s monopoly is set to continue.
In an affidavit filed on the guidance by the SC in a public interest litigation (PIL) on the matter, the Centre has said it was not possible to allow them permission saying that various anti- national radical elements within the country and also in foreign can misuse it for diffuse their own agenda.
The Supreme Court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the NGO Common Cause in 2013, seeking a direction to the Centre to allow private radio stations and community radios to broadcast news, arguing that radio is a more approachable medium for the masses, particularly the poor.
“MHA is of the view that Community Radio Service operators and Private FM operators may not be given to broadcast news and current affairs programmes. Broadcast of news by these channel may pose a possible security risk as there is no mechanism to monitor the contents of the news bulletins of very such channel”, an MHA affidavit filed in the court said.
“All these channels are run mainly by NGO/other small organizations and private operators, various anti national radical elements within the country can misuse it for diffusing their own agenda. Community radio stations also air programmers involving chats with NRIs and local population settled in foreign. These stations may be worked by foreign / radical organizations to broadcast radical views of some of these NRIs, as due to an insufficient quantity of funds, the radio stations would not be able to afford reliable news sources”, it said.
The NGO’s advocate Prashant Bhushan had argued that not everyone can yield to open a private Television channel, but people can open community radio stations and FM channel. Holding that broadcasting of news and current affairs programmes on radio are at present “the exclusive preserve of AIR and are outside the ambit of private FM radio stations”, the MHA said in matter of a policy departure, there are various pitfalls to guard against, bearing in mind the sensitive nature of such broadcast.
“It is believed that news and current affairs, with their inherent capability to manipulate the minds of the people have been advisedly kept besides the limits of private radio stations. Any shift in this policy would need to an adherence to arigorous code of conduct; a proper monitoring mechanism and penal provisions of violation of such a broadcast code”, said the MHA.
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