[FoME] India to establish 4000 community radio stations

Christoph Dietz christoph.dietz at CAMECO.ORG
Do Mär 15 09:48:08 CET 2007

>>> CI News <cinews at unesco.org> 15.03.2007 >>>


15-03-2007 (New Delhi) 

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

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.       During
the National Consultation on Community Radio

© UNESCO New Delhi


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