| 22 Sep 2020
UNESCO team visits community radio stations in Haryana

MUMBAI: The two community radio stations of Haryana – Radio Mewat and Gurgaon ki Awaaz experienced a field visit by representatives of UNESCO. The UNESCO Chair on Community Media and Radio Corax in Halle, Germany visited the stations on 30 January. The two radio stations from Germany were on a long India CR station visit, they also visited few CR stations in Hyderabad before visiting Haryana. spoke to the Station Heads of Gurgaon ki Awaaz and Radio Mewat, they said, “The team from Germany along with UNESCO visited our stations to know how our CRS works and how we benefit the community by our programs."

Gurgaon ki Awaaz airs programmes on health, microfinance and social development that have evoked by the support and admiration of local communities. But programmes for subgroups such as migrants have provoked heated debates within communities. The point of variance has been whether their radio should broadcast programmes for outsiders. Folk music is a much-contested area, with local residents reacting vituperatively to the airing of music performed by migrants or from migrants’ states. Responding to these attitudes, the CR station has played a steering role in nurturing dialogue among local communities and promoting tolerance for diversity.

Radio Mewat was set up with financial support from a UNESCO media development programme, and has emerged as an important communication hub in the Mewat district of Haryana. It offers programmes on education, livelihoods, health, the preservation of local heritage and subjects related to local development. Radio Mewat enjoys the support of local governing bodies and government departments, whose schemes it promotes sometimes.

Radio Mewat station director Archana Kapoor stated, “Seven minutes of advertising are allowed per hour – until recently it used to be five minutes. But in an area like Mewat, with small clusters of local shops and a few scattered markets, where would one find local advertisers? It is difficult to find up to three minutes of advertising, let alone seven. Larger corporate houses have little interest in the target audience Mewat offers, and even if they were interested I’m not sure an independent CR station ought to accept such advertising uncritically.”

A couple of community broadcasters from Radio Mewat have gone on to contest local elections and join governing councils. They have publicly claimed that working for the CR station gave them the confidence, power of self-expression and ground-level understanding of local challenges required to enter public life. While Radio Mewat’s staff consists almost entirely of young women and men from the community, today folk performers, musicians or simply people who have a story to tell voluntarily travel to the station, certain that they will be heard. In time, the radio station has emerged not just as a trusted source of information, but as an ally of the community and its first port of call in times of crisis or uncertainty.