The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry on Monday renewed 115 community radio licenses, allowing them to operate on existing terms and conditions till the end of December.

Community radio stations are operated by local communities or organizations for development communication. India has 196 such stations, which operate under so-called grant of permission agreements (GOPA) which last for five years. 

The I&B ministry is still working on license renewal guidelines recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in June 2014. The license period of the stations is extended up to 31 December or till the renewal of GOPA on regular basis, whichever is earlier, a ministry statement said.

Trai had suggested a renewal mechanism and a single-window clearance for setting up community radio stations.

Currently, applicants have to secure mandatory clearances from home and defense ministries and the IT ministry’s wireless planning and coordination wing. Educational institutions wishing to set up community radio stations must secure clearances from the human resource development ministry, while state agriculture institutions, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutions and Krishi Vigyan Kendras must secure approval from the agriculture ministry.

The regulator had also suggested a three-month period for processing of applications.

“It takes years to process an application; instead it should be a single window clearance system—either you get it or you don’t. Currently, government goes through a long procedure of getting clearances from various ministries. The process should be streamlined and made a little time-bound,” Sanjoy Hazarika, managing trustee of the Centre of North-East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES), which started the Brahmaputra community radio station in 2009 in Dibrugarh district of Assam, told Mint on 29 July. 

In the past three financial years, the ministry has received 747 applications for setting up community radio stations, out of which 62 were issued letters of intent, while 474 applications were rejected, according to a written reply submitted in the Rajya Sabha by minister of state for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore. - Livemint