If you are considering applying for permission to set up a Community Radio Station (CRS), or have already done so, you are undoubtedly aware of the convoluted process, as part of which one has to apply to several ministries for clearance. It would be useful to understand beforehand the process of application and clearances, in order to do this well and with a minimum of effort. This is where Applying for SACFA clearance and allotment of frequency for a Community Radio Station (CRS): A step by step guide proves to be a useful aid.

This publication, authored by N Ramakrishnan, director of projects at Ideosync Media Combine, hand-holds applicants through the application process along with providing other useful information. The document has been prepared with key inputs from a number of individuals and organisations working in the field of community and campus radio.

Why this guide

Applying for permission to set up a CRS can befuddle the most well-prepared of applicants. First, the basic application has to be sent to the CRS Cell at the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and it must receive the clearance and security check by various ministries such as civil aviation, defence, home affairs and communication. Following this, the MoIB issues the applicant a Letter of Intent, which permits the applicant to proceed with the application process.

Once this has been received, one has to apply to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT). Specifically one has to approach the Dept of Telecommunication’s (DoT) Standing Advisory Committee on Frequency Application (SACFA) and the Wireless Planning & Coordination (WPC) wing to get a siting clearance and the allocation of a frequency for your CRS.

This process is convoluted because (a) the application has to be made online on the WPC website (www.wpc.dot.gov.in), which is not easy to navigate, followed by the submission of a hard copy version; (b) there are some technical portions to the application that are totally out of the realm of common knowledge; and (c) there are no clear expectations forthcoming from WPC regarding how the form needs to be filled in.

Siting permission

Applying to the SACFA and WPC for siting clearance essentially means that you are applying for permission to set up a radio transmitter in a particular location, broadcasting on a specific frequency. 'Radio spectrum', the range of electromagnetic waves within which the radio waves we use for broadcast radio are situated, is limited. So the distribution or allocation of the available frequencies is usually managed by a central (usually government) authority, so that frequency overlaps do not take place.

Siting permission, therefore, takes into consideration the existing use of the radio spectrum in the proposed location, in the interests of fair distribution - and so that the transmitter that you set up does not interfere with that of any defence, air traffic, police or emergency service radio transmission.

Contents of the guide

The guide contains detailed information on

      - The information one must collect before one makes the application


      - A step by step, page by page walkthrough of the application process


    - Details on the submission of the hard copy application, including enclosures and details of the maps and other required supporting documents.

The SACFA application guide is accompanied by a template frequency application form that needs to be completed as well and submitted in hard copy.

Who can use it?

The CRS guide (PDF, 25 pages)
Radio frequency application example

“Many people have applied only to be told that the site they have asked for cannot be permitted for various technical reasons that only become clear once you complete the application. That kind of catch 22 can be very frustrating to applicants.”

– N Ramakrishnan, director of projects, Ideosync Media Combine.

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The guide is intended to help non-technical people successfully complete the SACFA and frequency applications - which probably means 99 per cent of us! But more realistically, it should be read by organisations who intend to apply for a CR licence, or have already submitted their application to I&B and are proceeding to the SACFA and frequency allocation step.

“Increasingly, as organisations apply for CR licenses, the stumbling block seems to be the SACFA and frequency allocation applications. Many people have applied only to be told that the site they have asked for cannot be permitted for various technical reasons that only become clear once you complete the application. That kind of Catch 22 can be very frustrating to applicants who have already spent over six months in the application process,” says the author N Ramakrishnan.

If these details and pitfalls could be made available earlier - as indeed, the guide does - it would save everybody the heartbreak, as well as allow applicants to select appropriate sites that conform to the criteria. Finally, given that there are many restrictions while making this online application - the need to have the processing fee draft ready, and several other details in hand, for example - it is vital that everyone know what needs to be done beforehand, rather than make several abortive attempts at application.