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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Anger as India shuts FM station
Radio listener in Bihar village
The station was a hit with locals (Pics: Prashant Ravi)
India's authorities are being urged to relent after shutting a popular community radio station in northern Bihar state for not having a licence.

Reporters Without Borders said the FM station should be granted a temporary licence to allow it to broadcast.

The station, run on a shoe-string by local man Raghav Mahato, was featured on the BBC News website in February.

Thousands of villagers tuned in to listen to a blend of songs from films and public interest messages.

To forcibly close down a community-type radio is a sign of intransigence by the authorities over the emergence of pluralism on the airwaves
Reporters Without Borders

Back in February, Raghav Mahato told the BBC that he was unaware that running an FM station required a government licence.

"I don't know about this. I just began this out of curiosity and expanded its area of transmission every year," he said.


Reporters Without Borders said the authorities shut down the station, Raghav FM Mansoorpur 1, last weekend after the courts ruled it was breaking the law.

Raghav Mahato
Raghav makes his living repairing electronic goods

"The police lodged a complaint against the founder and sole presenter, Raghav Mahato, and information ministry representatives seized his equipment," the group said in a statement.

"It is one thing to apply the law, but to forcibly close down a community-type radio is a sign of intransigence by the authorities over the emergence of pluralism on the airwaves."

The group said the move underlined the fact that India is "the last country in South Asia to accept independent news broadcasts on FM" and called for an amendment on community radios.

A senior official of India's information ministry looking after community radio stations told the BBC that he had no information on Raghav Mahato's station.

He said there were 16 licensed community radio stations in the country and that only educational institutions were allowed to run such stations.

'World's cheapest radio'

Raghav Mahato, a poor radio mechanic, set up his DIY radio station in the village of Mansoorpur in Vaishali district in 2003.

The station proved a big hit with locals - licence or no licence.

"Women listen to my station more than men," Raghav told the BBC. "Though Bollywood and local Bhojpuri songs are the staple diet, I air devotional songs at dawn and dusk for women and old people."

The transmission equipment - which at a cost of just over $1 made the station possibly the cheapest in the world - was fitted on to an antenna attached to a bamboo pole on a neighbouring three-storey hospital.

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