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AMARC urges spectrum fee roll back

(AMARC/IFEX) - May 10, 2012 - The Asia Pacific Board of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) is deeply concerned at the recent spectrum fee hike imposed by the Government of India. One of the milestones of the Community Radio Guidelines of 2006 was the creation of a distinct three-tiered radio policy - public, private and community - based on the promise of inclusiveness and equity. As a result of these guidelines, India became the first country in South Asia to have a distinct policy for community radio which took sides with the excluded and marginalized. By raising the spectrum fee from Rs 19,700/- per annum (approx. USD 370) to Rs 91,000/- per annum (USD $1,700), the policy would appear to defeat the purpose of providing a voice to the voiceless and blurring these distinctions.

As a global network committed to media democratization and strengthening the voices of the excluded through community radio, AMARC supports the Community Radio Forum of India's (CRF) stand that the hike will "choke the rights of communities to voice." Further, it goes against the spirit of the citizens' fundamental right to speech and expression as enshrined in Article 19 Clause 1 Sub Clause A of the Indian Constitution.

As a result of the hike, "genuine and grassroots communities will be excluded . . . and community radio will be a mockery of the stated policy objectives of the government of India."

A recent rapid assessment survey conducted by the AMARC International Secretariat indicates that the movement towards reducing spectrum fees is gaining ground across the world. Countries like Australia, Canada, Denmark, South Africa, and Uruguay do not levy a spectrum fee, while in countries like Bangladesh, Colombia, and Nicaragua the amount ranges from USD 150 to USD 480 to USD 50-100 (raise the fee over 1000 watts) respectively.

AMARC urges the Government of India to urgently enable an inclusive and truly participative community climate in India by taking steps that will revoke the spectrum fee hike as well as end other restrictions like the ban on news.

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