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24/7 watch on radio content

New Delhi, July 15: The content on FM and community radio will soon be monitored round the clock, with the Centre taking steps to attach these to the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) that now covers 300 television channels.

Officials said the need was felt because nearly 840 more FM channels are likely to come up in a few months after Phase III of FM radio services begins in 249 cities of the country.

“Currently, we do not have an archive of FM radio content. As it is likely that many of these channels will air news, apart from general entertainment and educational programmes, keeping tabs on them becomes imperative,” a senior official in the information and broadcasting ministry said.

The ministry is spending Rs 50 crore for the purpose, officials said.

The EMMC now records and monitors content being broadcast on 300 television channels and reports violation of rules.

At present, the government does not monitor radio content but has issued advisories on some occasions to stick to the programming code. In February last year, for example, the government had warned private FM radio channels against making unsolicited calls to people and airing the conversations, after a prank call by Australian radio jockeys led to suicide by an Indian-origin nurse in the UK.

The official further said: “While monitoring FM radio channels will be comparatively easier, the real task lies in putting in place a mechanism to monitor community radios, given the fact that their reach is limited to a 10-15 kilometre radius.”

Sources said that while there has been no complaint of serious violations by any of the 172 community radio stations operating across the country, there is a view within the government that these need to be monitored closely, more so because their broadcasts are limited to and exclusively available in small pockets.

Community radio channels are mainly run by NGOs and some government agencies and focus on creating awareness on development issues.

To start with, over 25 of the oldest community radio stations are likely to be connected to the EMMC.

Plans are also afoot to bring the rest of the 780 television channels under its ambit. To this end, Rs 80 crore is being spent on buying new machines, hiring more employees and purchasing storage devices.

“The monitoring mechanism will stipulate that programmes telecast on all channels will be recorded for a period of 90 days and will be produced before any agency of the government as and when required,” the official said.