Anna University became the first in the country to commission the campus community radio on 1st of February, 2004. I had the unique privilege of associating myself right from the scratch.
The beginning of Anna FM
The experience I had while commissioning the station is full of excitement, even though I earlier had the privilege of associating myself with the commissioning of India’s first educational FM channel at Allahabad on 7th of November 2001.
The experience of achieving the campus community radio was much more satisfying. I was following up the progress of the legislation of the community radio movement and was also associated in a small way with at the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) as well as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. I was also associated when the format for the simple two page application was developed. Thanks to Shri Anil Baijal, the former Additional Secretary to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, community radio aspirants have to fill up only a simple two-page application form along with one page affidavit and bank guarantee. The rest of it has to be done by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Institutions can either send their application through the State Government or through the Human Resource Development.
The journey of the application
Anna University has applied for the community radio in the month of May, 2003, a full five months after the scheme was announced. It was fortunate to get its application forwarded and recommended by the State Government in June, 2003. Then we were told that we have to submit a bank guarantee which was not originally envisaged. After submitting the bank guarantee, our application was referred to the Home Ministry.
Home Ministry made discrete enquiries, collected some documents, verified antecedents of the people who manage the Anna University and submitted its report sometime in August, 2003. Then, the file was referred to the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Telecommunication.
The Ministry of Defence, Ministry of External Affairs had taken long time to clear and asked some clarifications. The Ministry of Telecommunication again to refer red the proposal to the Defence Ministry for clearance of frequencies.
I now understand that the government has revised these guidelines and the future application from aspirants of the community radio will not be sent to External and Defence Ministries. We understood that the Ministry of Human Resource Development has cleared our proposal in the month of October, 2003 and External Affairs and Defence have cleared it up by end of November, 2003. After higher officials of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting took up the matter with the Ministry of Defence and Telecommunication, things cleared by the end of December, 2003.
Letter of intent
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting then issued the ‘letter of intent’ on December 29, 2003. Once the ‘letter of intent’ was received by Anna University, it has to apply for allotment of frequency to the Ministry of Telecommunication. The process took two weeks.
Frequency was allotted to Anna University by the Ministry of Telecommunication on January 14, 2003. Anna University has to sign the agreement with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and it was done on January 15, 2004.
The next step was to apply for SACFA clearance from the Ministry of Telecommunication for which the ‘letter of intent’, frequency allotment, the agreement and the map of location certified by the Survey of India, the details of transmitters along with a fee of Rs 1,000 (USD 20) to the WPC wing of Ministry of Telecommunication. We have to give a soft copy as well as hard copy. Soft copy was to be given in MS-DOS format.
The Survey of India’s report costs Rs 10,000 (USD 200). WPC then referred the case to the Air Port Authority of India and the Ministry of Defence for a ‘No Objection’ Certificate (NOC). In the Ministry of Defence – Navy, Army, Air Force and the joint operations have to give NOC. After all these departments had given the NOC, the spectrum fee of Rs 19,100 (USD 400) has to be paid to WPC for issue of actual licence.
Anna University was able to build a small studio of 10 X 8 plinth area, which is digital, tapeless, transmission ready, multi purpose at a cost of Rs 7.5 lakhs (USD 15,000) with reverberation time less than 0.1. It has air-conditioning and a 12 channel console. The cost includes an audio server and two work stations. M/s. Bharat Electronics had approached Anna University with a prototype transmitter of 50W and an antenna which was inspected by the engineers of AIR. The tower was erected at a cost of Rs 25,000 (USD 500). The indigenous di-pole antenna supplied by Bharat Electronics was mounted on it. So the entire cost had come to around Rs.12 lakhs (USD 24,000). The government agencies had quoted Rs 20 to 22 lakhs (USD 40 to 44,000). The process was completed on January 30, 2004. Then Anna FM became a reality.
It was inaugurated by the-then Deputy Prime Minister of India, Shri L.K.Advani with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Dr. J.Jayalalithaa as the Guest of Honour. The function was presided over by the-then Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad and the same was commissioned on February 1, 2004.
The enthusiasm and the zeal of the bureaucrats of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, who went out of the way to see that the first station become operational at Anna University, were all plus points.
The entire credit of operationalisation of this first community FM radio goes to the dynamic Vice-Chancellor of Anna University, Prof. E.Balagurusamy. He has declared that universities such as Anna University must be able to get some money for content creation. With his personal commitment to take science and technology to the community and his vision, leadership and support, the station became relayed.
The Anna University is proud that it is running the community radio for the community and by the community with cooperation from the faculty of Anna University, its students, its neighbours and the developmental agencies without much difficulty and finance. Anna University today is in a position to offer consultancy to the entire country on setting up of community radio stations as well as training personnel for it.
On 1st of February 2004, Anna FM had only 3 hours original audio software. But now it has a collection of 400 hours within 125 days of its existence. Anna University has roped in the city police, the Adi Dravidar Welfare Corporation, M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation, Women’s Empowerment Organisations, Cancer Institute, Shankar Nethralaya, Entrepreneurship Development Organisations, Department of Science and Technology, Vigyan Prasar, Kalakshetra, Central Leather Research Insititute (CLRI), Metropolitan Transport Corporation, Southern Railway and host of other organisations for its software creation.
With three hours of programme and more than 30 student volunteers, 10 senior academicians and media persons offering the services voluntarily, the recurring expenses for Anna FM is not high. But still it spends around Rs 70,000 (USD 1400) per month purely for local transport and other incidental expenses. With more and more partners joining, Anna FM will be able to achieve its goal and retain its No.1 position.