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Community radio stations welcome MIB's DAVP plans
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MUMBAI: The constant lobbying by community radio stations in India for government advertising has finally been heard.

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, on 4 November 2009, passed a government resolution finalizing the DAVP advertising rates for community radio stations to Re. 1/- per second for a period of one year initially.

The circular from the Information and Broadcast Ministry on Re. 1/sec advertising rates for DAVP ads has received mixed reactions from the community radio operators in India.

The Empanelment Advisory committee has recommended guidelines for operating community radio stations to seek advertisements/ sponsored programmes from the central and state governments and other organizations. These guidelines include that the CRS should have completed three months of continuous operation for a minimum of two hours of broadcasting every day. The empanelment will be considered by DG, DAVP on a case to case basis as and when a request is required.

CEMCA director Dr R Sreedher is elated with the passed circular by the MIB. He says, “I had proposed the advertising rate in an interview with radioandmusic.com two years ago and further pushed it with the ministry. A committee was then formed with representatives of DAVP, MIB, operational community radio to study the financial viability of CRS. The report was released this month and the move of Re.1/ per second passed on 4 November. It will help CRS and atleast 30 per cent of advertising will come from government organisations.”

Mumbai University based Radio MUST head Pankaj Athavale welcomes the move stating that rates don’t matter until the activity starts. Foreseeing the implications of the move passed by MIB, he says, “We have 13 hours of broadcast each day and as five minutes of airtime is available for sale every hour, it comes to around 65 minutes a day. Also, this advertising from government comes with no production cost to the CRS and hence the stations can supplement their advertising with DAVP ads.”

Athavale insists that community radio broadcasters should foresee this advertising rate as an incentive to increase their broadcasting hours.

Mangalore based Radio Sarang director Dr Richard Rego states, “It is a positive move for the CRS as not many private advertisers are coming forward because of absence of listenership data and limited coverage area. The current tariff will help handle expenses for CRS but if increased it would help us to be financially viable.”

Citing this advertising rate of Re.1 per second as realistic today, Community Radio Forum (CRF) member Stalin Padma questions the derivation of the magic figure of Re.1 by the government. “The community radio stations in India are manned by inexperienced operators and are happy with the current advertising rates but if there are differential rates for other mediums like television, FM radio, rates for CRS should also be decided according to markets.”

Explaining the reason for proposing the Re.1/per second tariff Sreedher says, “We have been operating Anna FM in Chennai and the expenses mount to Rs. 60,000 a month. We broadcast for 10 hours, five hours live and five hours of repeat broadcast and Re.1 per second garners around 90,000 a month which is sufficient for sustainability.” Sreedher further mentions that Re.1 per second is the base rate fixed by the government in absence of any listenership stats.

“The present rate of Re. 1 per second is unsustainable for CRS as they can’t attain breakeven with such revenues. Instead of a uniform rate throughout the country, there must be differential rates in different markets depending on the running cost and advertising markets, ” says media collective Maraa's community media coordinator Ram.

The CRF had earlier proposed that a certain amount of advertising revenue be allocated to community radios on a country wide basis and this proposal is still under consideration by the MIB.

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