15.03.2007 -

India to establish 4000 community radio stations under new community radio policy

In the next few years 4000 community radio stations will have sprung up in India under the new enabling community radio policy announced by the Governmen says Shri S. K. Arora, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of India.

This was announced during the 'National Consultation on Community Radio for practising and potential Community Radio Operators in India', at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi, 6-7 March, 2007.

 

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India in collaboration with the United Nations, led by UNESCO, organised the consulation meeting attended by over 150 representatives from Government of India, bilateral agencies, umbrella NGOs, grassroots community workers, both mainstream media and community radio enthusiasts., The Consultation achieved its aims of raising awareness about the processes involved in community radio (CR) licensing in India, and taking the dialogue forward.

 

Based on presentations from Community radio operators in South Africa, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India relating to crucial aspects ranging from policy to operation, organisation and management, programming and technical aspects and sustainability, it showcased different models/experiences in South Asia and other regions and focussed on contextualising them to meet the Indian situation.

 

The National Consultation, envisaged as a precursor to a series of regional workshops to spread awareness of community radio and encourage community groups to set up community radio stations, was further encouraged by the Government's proposal to follow up with a "touring technical exhibit" of technology options for this purpose.

 

Other proposals emerging from this meeting related to the establishment of a pro-active national community radio association to build peer pressure for trustworthiness; voluntary mechanisms for dispute resolution that may also form a link to a national broadcast complaints commission; development of mechanism for on-going dialogue on policy; professionalisation of community radio; lowering of entry barriers in an effort to reach the Government target of establishment of 4000 community radio stations by 2008; maintenance of community radio networks for information sharing and capacity building; continued targeted advocacy to involve communities in taking the lead to spread the community radio movement in India; and publication of a source book on technical facilities available in the country.

 

In his inaugural address, Shri S. K. Arora, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting anticipated that in the next few years 4000-5000 community radio stations will have sprung up in India and that it was indeed helpful for community radio operators (practicing and potential) in India to understand different aspects from others' experience. According to him, "The Indian Government has been extremely supportive of NGOs functionning. The mass media factor had been missing in this support. This gap will be filled up by community ratio operations." He further added, "Community radio focuses on low cost and low return pattern of operations, which are aimed at educating and entertaining the community using their own idioms and language in contrast to the private FM radio which is primarily driven by entertainment and business considerations".

 

W. Jayaweera, UNESCO Director, Division for communication development, Paris in his keynote address reminded one and all that community radio was all about community engagement by harmonizing local potential. "CRS can prove to be an excellent tool for managing plurality in a society and fostering the democracy."

In the welcome remarks delivered by Jocelyne Josiah, Adviser in communication and information, the meeting was reminded of the added power of community radio when combined with multimedia devices as practised in the four experimental Community MultiMedia Centres (CMCs) in India promoted by UNESCO.

 

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Maxine Olson said that UNESCO is training 150 personnel for Radio Banasthali in Rajasthan. She also referred to the support being lent by United Nations in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the setting up of Community radio stations.

 

This National Consultation comes in the wake of the November 16, 2006 the Union Cabinet clearance of the community radio policy allowing non-profit organizations with a three-year track record to set up and run stations. A modification of an earlier policy that let 'reputed educational institutions' have radio stations, this one permits civil society organizations to have their own transmission. Ownership over transmission was one major point of contention by NGOs; they could use campus radios and buy time on All India Radio (AIR) earlier, but didn't own the transmitters.

 

Radio is the main source of news and entertainment for most of India. AIR is the top tier in radio coverage, as the public service broadcaster. Private FM has now become the second tier. Community radio promises to be the third tier, closest to the people.

Community radio in India has many advantages over AIR and private FM. Programmes, nearly always in the local languages deal with local issues involving ordinary people so that villagers and townspeople understand what they are about. The government's broadcasting code notwithstanding, audio programmes have exposed corruption. Just hearing themselves on radio is an empowering experience for people, who realize that this, truly, can be their voice and help them get a better deal from the government and other castes. It is the first time Dalits, tribals and women have found an opportunity to speak out.




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