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Major community radio forums today decried the Centre's objection to them broadcasting news, asserting that it was time for the government to let go of the "last vestige" of media monopoly. During a discussion held under the aegis of UNESCO here, community radio professionals also alleged that the government was giving in to the pressure of "television lobby" in preventing them from doing so. There are around 200 community radio stations in India. "This anxiety about misuse of airwaves by people at the grassroots militates against evidence from different parts of the world that community radio can play a potential peace-building role in conflict prone or post-conflict societies. It is time to let go of this last vestige of media monopoly," Vinod Pavarala, UNESCO chair on community media, said. Parvala also wondered why the government could not trust facilities to broadcast news that have been provided licenses by it. In his response, I&B Ministry Joint Secretary Mihir Singh, who was also present at the event, stressed on the "contrarian view" that community radio was susceptible to manoeuvring of local political interests. "Except politics, all other information is already allowed.
If the radio stations want to comment on the state, if they have the capacity, it can be thought of and in any case the matter is in the Supreme Court," he said. However, Dharampal Singh, the secretary general of the Federation of Community Radio Stations, observed that applying these parameters made no sense in the digital age when information flows freely over "whatsapp groups and social media". "At least people will monitor the content community radio stations will broadcast. It is very essential for the government to allow news in this medium. The main pressure seems to be coming from the TV lobby," he said. The Centre yesterday submitted in the Supreme Court that allowing private FM radio stations, including community radios, to broadcast news could pose a "possible security risk" and may be "exploited" by foreign radical outfits.
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