PIL challenges guidelines on carrying news in FM Radio

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The decision of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry permitting Frequency Modulation (FM) radio operators to carry news bulletins of All India Radio (AIR), a government owned broadcasting service, was challenged in the Orissa High Court today with a media activist organization, India Media Centre, filing a public interest litigation (PIL) on the matter.

The petition demands withdrawal of clause no. 11.1 of policy guidelines on expansion of FM Radio broadcasting through private agencies (phase-III) so as to have free accessibility to news.

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The clause states that the permission holder will be allowed to carry the news bulletins of AIR in exactly same format (unaltered) on such terms and conditions as may be mutually agreed with Prasar Bharati. No other news and current affairs programs are permitted under the policy.

The counsel for the petitioner, Nishikant Mishra, said, the PIL has sought deletion of the said clause issued by the ministry vide its order dated July 25 this year.

“The Government of India has formulated policy guidelines for expansion of FM radio broadcasting through private agencies (phase III) and the clause no. 11.1 of the guidelines is being unreasonable, arbitrary and ultra vires of the constitution and as such is illegal and is liable to be deleted from the said guidelines”, the petition maintained.

The petition made the Secretary of I &B ministry and Secretary, Department of Telecommunication and Information Technology, Govt of India as opposite parties.

In a democratic country like India, if private television channels are allowed to broadcast news, then why FM radio news operators are asked to carry news only from the Prasar Bharati, argued the counsel for the petitioner.

It may be noted, with a view to further expand the FM services to more cities particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, North Eastern states and island territories and to address certain other issues raised by the FM radio industry from time to time, the Government amended the existing Phase-II policy issued on July13, 2005.
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