(MENAFN - Gulf Times) There are plans to launch more radio channels in the country and a Filipino radio station could be granted an operating licence soon, HE the Minister of Culture and Sports Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser al-Ali has said. He made the observation while speaking on the sidelines of an event held on Wednesday to launch four private radio stations in Qatar: Malayalam (98.6 FM) and Suno (91.7 FM), both in Malayalam, and Radio Olive (106.3 FM) and One FM Radio (89.6 FM), both in Hindi.
The launch ceremony took place at the Ministry of Culture and Sports in the presence of a number of ambassadors, including Indian envoy P Kumaran, and representatives of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and Qatar Media Corporation, in addition to owners of channels and senior ministry officials.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, al-Ali said launching private radio stations in the languages of resident expatriates reaffirms Qatar's openness to the world and that it believes in media freedom. He also noted that the launch is one of the positive outcomes of the illegal siege imposed on Qatar, as it reiterates the coherence among all who live in the country, and this led to the launch of radio stations for residents, particularly those from India who make up the biggest expatriate group.
The minister said the coming phase will see the launch of new radio stations for other expatriate groups to reflect media freedom in Qatar, stressing that these channels are 'completely independent in their content and directions. He also expressed hope that these will contribute to the ongoing 'renaissance in the country through the content that they will offer.
Asked about any criteria or conditions for granting such licences, he said there are internationally established criteria, which include not spreading hatred or disrespecting religions, not adopting racist or inflammatory messages, and not supporting violence and terrorism. 'Except for that, we are open to the media space, he added.
Further, the minister stressed that Qatar is one of the easiest places to obtain such licences even in terms of fees, which, he said, are 'very low and don't hinder those interested in radio investment.
He said there are several requests with regard to the launch of new radio stations and these are currently being reviewed in co-ordination with the Ministry of Transport and Communications. While there are not enough radio frequencies at the moment for the stations applied for, he said there will be new technical solutions by 2018. There is also co-ordination with Es'hailSat — the Qatar Satellite Company and different state institutions to support the private sector and launch new stations.
Al-Ali noted that a Filipino radio station could be granted an operating licence soon.
Speaking at the ceremony, Sheikha Najla al-Thani, head of the radio licences department at the Ministry of Culture and Sports, said the launch of such radio stations in Qatar goes in line with the state's vision of encouraging investments, particularly in the media field. She noted that these stations will contribute to diversifying the media content offered to the public in Qatar and meet the needs of expatriate groups while teaching them about Qatari culture and traditions.
Sheikha Najla said preparations for the setting up these stations started in 2016 as teams from the department as well as Qatar Media Corporation, the Communications Regulatory Authority and licence owners worked to finalise the process. She added that the stations will broadcast round the clock and feature entertainment, social and cultural programmes, while also covering current events in the country so that speakers of the languages in question are aware of latest developments.
Ambassador Kumaran extended his thanks to Qatar and the Ministry of Culture and Sports for backing such initiatives that enhance communication among Qatar residents, adding that these initiatives will carry meaningful media message that promote creative diversity in Qatar through a variety of programmes and ideas that teach the Qatari culture.