Kochi: All India Radio's (AIR) FM is getting ready to break new ground in Kerala, with community radio programmes to be introduced shortly.
The new addition, expected to add to the increasing popularity of FM, may soon pave way for commercial exploitation of FM stations. The Indian ministry of Information and Broadcasting had recently called for applications to grant licences to broadcast community-based programmes in the lines of the ones popular in the Northeast.
Licences will be granted to well-established educational institutions and organisations, including universities, institutes of technology and management, and residential schools, for operating community radio stations.
The programmes should focus on issues relating to education, health, agriculture, rural and community development. The details of the service will only be known in a week's time, says RC Gopal, station director, AIR, Kochi.
Community radio programmes have a large audience in the West, as non-governmental organisations, alternative groups and the like use them to air views and build local radio communities.
While the ministry has clearly stipulated that the service should not be used for commercial purposes, AIR officials feel such programmes will lead private players who have been keeping away for various reasons, to enter the FM market.
Currently, the steep costs imposed on the FM radio category in terms of licence fees, royalties, and other expenses such as buying data along with stringent censorship have seen commercial players in the state shying away from foraying into the FM territory.
But the case of FM in major metros of India, including New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, have been different, with FM revenues overshooting that of primary AIR channels. In recent times, AIR revenue in the state has also gone up, according to Satish Chandran, director, CBS, AIR, Thiruvananthapuram.