In a setback to media houses owning popular FM radio stations across India, the Centre’s Narendra Modi government on Monday submitted an affidavit opposing any move to allow them to use news and current affairs on private radio channels.
The government told 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 to broadcast fabricated or radical views.
Opposing a plea seeking direction for allowing news on private radio stations, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has said there is no mechanism to monitor the contents of news bulletins of every such station and it has to be ensured that community radios are not used as a tool by vested interests.
An affidavit, filed by the Ministry in pursuance to notice issued by a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, said community radio stations also air programmes involving chats with NRIs and the local population settled abroad.
“These stations may be exploited by foreign radical organisations to broadcast fabricated/radical views of some of these NRIs, as due to paucity of funds, the radio stations would not be able to afford authentic news sources,” it said.
The affidavit said the community and private FM radio station operators may not be allowed to broadcast news and current affairs programmes as it “may pose a possible security risk as there is no mechanism to monitor the contents of the news bulletins of every such stations”.
“News and current affairs programmes on community radios are not allowed in the policy guideline to prevent the possibility of misuse of the platform by vested interests for furthering their designs/agenda,” it said.
“Community radio is a powerful medium for dissemination of information among the local people. It needs to be ensured that it is not used as a tool by vested interests,” the government said.
“In case of policy departure, there are several pitfalls to guard against, bearing in mind the sensitive nature of such broadcasts. It is believed that news and current affairs, with their inherent capability to manipulate the minds of the people, have been advisedly kept beyond the tether of private radio stations,” the affidavit said.
It said that “unfettered freedom” to community radio and private FM radio operators to put out news bulletins or current affairs programmes “may be detrimental to national interests and it may be prudent to allow community radio operators to only broadcast AIR’s news without any charges and allow private FM operators merely to relay AIR’s output for a price based on a national and local rate card of AIR.”