RadioandMusic
| 25 Oct 2020
Community Radio - the voice gets stronger

It's been barely some months since community radio took off in earnest in the country - 36 campus-stations and three NGO-led CR stations - are currently on air.

The medium, however, appears to have touched a chord with the communities they serve. Community Radio Stations like the MVSS led station at Satara, Bundelkhand Radio at Orchha and the Deccan Development Society DDS community radio station at Pastapur, Andhra Pradesh, have become the voice in rural areas enabling local citizens to raise their opinions on issues pertaining to the community.

Awakening the people

Though community radio is still in its infancy in India, and despite the many bureaucratic hurdles needed to be crossed before a station can launch, it is delivering and paving the path for dissemination of information and creating awareness. Meant to address local issues, community radio reaches out to the common man, pinpointing issues not covered by national media.

As Ekta Mittal, a community media coordinator with media collective Maraa says, Community radio is not only an empowerment tool, but importantly, a platform for people to represent themselves. Community radio allows people to shape their opinions....

Gurgoan based TRF community radio project manager Arti Jaiman says, Community radio has empowered different categories and marginalised communities. Through the initial stages of setting up the radio station, we were successful in breaking the barriers of caste that still exist in these regions....

Most remarkable was the involvement of females in the questionnaire survey( a mandatory requirement of the information and broadcasting ministry before the station is issued a license to operate), asserts Jaiman, where they could enter homes otherwise restricted to them. It was a turning point where we could see the transformation in the women, from being hesitant in the beginning to easily communicating later....

Kumaon Vani Community Radio station, set in Uttarakhand, plans to start broadcasting in a couple of months and is working on the content currently. Tulsi Mehta, who has enrolled as a reporter for the station states enthusiastically, In the initial stages, we had issues with gathering people and making them understand the concept of community radio. Later on, it became a platform for singers and experts in agriculture, career options, women's issues to connect with the population....

Vikalp Community radio in Jharkhand is optimistic to broadcast by April. The station has been running the highly popular �Chala Ho Gaon Mein' series broadcast twice a week on All India Radio since 2001. For villages affected by drought, corruption and power failures, radio is the only tool to reach out. As project manager Rakesh Kumar puts it, We have been addressing issues like child marriage, child labour, eradication of superstition, awareness about government schemes and public rights. Rural people are often not aware of government schemes and with no TV and electricity, radio is the only access of information for them....

Radio Vikalp is known to air effective programmes against corruption, female education, and early marriage. We prepare dramas on how to register complaints in case of corruption, talking to government officers and remedies for the same. To eradicate superstitions, we have interviewed spiritual healers who inform the people the importance of proper medical help....

Participative medium

Community radio essentially means engaging the community in issues, programming, conceptualising and broadcasting of content. According to those engaged with the medium, communities seem to have realised radio's strength in communicating with the non-literate population, participation of locals in issues, needs, pertaining to the community.

Ekta affirms, For the rural population, community radio is the only media to engage themselves. It is a participative medium and not passive medium like other media platforms."

Kumaon Vani is planning content which aims at addressing issues like health, education, finance etc. Mehta elaborates, Due to negligent behaviour at government hospitals, the community is not aware of importance of polio drops, the teachers in government schools do not fulfill their responsibility. We wish to indirectly awaken the community to these issues through interviews, dramas. Also, for helping the villagers with finance options, the radio station plans to bring financial experts on air and answer their queries....

Himachal Pradesh based Hamara MSPICM 90.4 FM director BS Panwar says, Community radio is often the only medium available in the interiors. The content is in the hands of community and people participate in the programming addressing issues that matter to them. We chose 15 villages in Himachal Pradesh and gave the locals complete freedom to air their views while we acted as facilitators. Initially there was a lukewarm response but now we are flooded with people's requests....

CRs also reflect the local culture of the community and affirms local cultural identities. Radio Bundelkhand initially used to fill their content with music recordings by the local musicians rendering traditional songs in the local dialect. Kumaon Vani and other CRs also encourage the local talent to participate in the content formation process.

Maraa has been involved in training and recruiting reporters and technical staff for community radios. Says Ekta Mittal, Reporters have to facilitate and have dialogue with the community to further the scope for unheard stories. Reporters in community radio must not look at informative issues but also engage in ethnographic methods to develop content....

Lack of incentive poses as a serious threat for CRS to encourage involvement by the community. As Mittal says, The first misconception of villagers to the onset of community radio is it being a source of livelihood for them and it becomes difficult to engage them without any monetary benefits....

Many reporters have voluntarily come forward to contribute for CRS without any monetary gains. Female reporters in Jhansi travel for nine Kms each day to work on a minimal stipend. Radio Bundelkhand reporter Prachi states, I came to know about training programme in Radio Bundelkhand and got myself enrolled for the programme. It feels good that I am earning and have engaged myself in something, it makes me feel proud that I am different from the other women in the village....

Success stories

With the Jharkhand based Vikalp's programming aimed at social issues, Rakesh Kumar avers, Had it not been for radio, the rural people would have been ignorant about government schemes on health, farming, finance, education....

Our programming has created an impact on rural population as today, the villagers hesitate to marry their daughters off at an early age knowing the difficulties of early marriage and pregnancy. Also, in the initial one- two years, it was difficult to involve women but the scene is fast changing today....

Enjoins Prachi, We have a segment where we broadcast a day in a woman's life. Initially, females in the community were reluctant that they would be heard throughout the village but after convincing they go on air willingly....

Radio Bundelkhand has aired shows on crucial issues like Water management and garbage disposal, which are the least important issues for the community. Our responsibility doesn't end by just airing issues; we tried to talk to the sarpanch who is accountable for addressing these issues but couldn't get through him. We hope that we will be successful in solving similar issues pertaining to the community,... beams Prachi.

Undoubtedly, community radio is the most direct, accessible, fastest and cheapest communication tool in the interiors. Rakesh Kumar avers, With only two to four hours of electricity in the villages, radio is the only medium which has penetrated in this area. It is a pleasure to watch villagers tune into radio in the evening at joints and discuss issues addressed. We have even started narrow casting the shows and playing out for the public in general for reaching to the people who cannot afford a radio....

It's early days yet, but community radio seems poised to make a difference in the way radio is perceived in India.