Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Govt delays licensing of community radio

Bhobhlal Dhruve, a member of aboriginal tribe Baiga community in Chada village (400 km from Bhopal), is eager to talk to his community on development issues. He and his fellow members of the community have formed 'Apna Radio', a community radio venture, and had applied for licence two years back.

But procedural delay at the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry is a major hurdle for them to broadcast and communicate with other members of their community.

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has urged the ministry to speed up the licensing process and has also urged the state government departments to support social organisations and NGOs for community and social development.

After a long frustrating wait of two years for license, Vandana Dubey of Shivpuri district has now launched her community radio 'Dhadkan' in 51 villages through narrowcast. She also uses All India Radio as a carrier to her radio programmes.

A government entity, Vanya, of state tribal welfare department, is also awaiting licence to launch its community radio in Bhabra (Alirajpur), Bijauri (Chhindwara), Sesaipura (Sheopur), Baihar (Balaghat), Nalchha (Dhar), Chada (Dindori), Umri (Guna) and Khalwa (Khandwa) through tribal schools, and community-based organisations.

As many as 1,000 applications for community radio are pending with the I&B ministry but hardly six community radio stations are reportedly working for civil society all over India.

More than 50 community radio stations are working for community but most of them are educational institutes. The licence process is tough as each application passes through various departments — Defence, Home, Telecom and Ministry of Information and Technology.

"If license process is eased the socio-economic development through community radio will be easier and speedy," says N Ramakrishnan, director project, Ideosync Media Combine, an organisation that provides training, consultancy and other supports for social organisations and funding agencies like UNDP etc. for community radio.

To set up a community radio, a social organization or non-government organization needs a transmitter, a back-up transmitter, a back-up power system, one station in-charge, few reporters, and station assistants. The process of setting up a community radio requires Rs 6-10 lakh investment and mostly funded by UNDP, but recurring monthly expenses are major constraints in the venture as advertising slot is capped for five minutes for half-an-hour community based programmes.

"For a social organization, it is a Herculean Task to generate revenue through advertisement. For a community radio of 50 Watt capacity, monthly recurring expenses touches Rs 15000 provided number of station assistants is restricted to five on voluntary basis. The captive power generation is also major issues as most of the rural areas do not have regular power supply," says Ajay Shukla, producer, Radio Bundelkhad, the only community radio broadcasting its programme in Bundelkhand region from Taragram near Orchha.

"The constraints may restrict many NGOs or social organizations to enter into this proper medium of communication," says Achyutanand Mishra, Vice chancellor, Makhanlal University of Journalism. He is also mulling over setting up a community radio.

However social organizations like Kutch Mahila Vikas Samiti (KMVS), has overcome the problems and has entered into an alternate route. "We have entered into narrowcast instead of broadcast. We have not been issued license for the last 10 years as Kutch region shares its border with Pakistan and government rules are very stringent in this region. We reach community in remote areas with an audio-tape player and narrowcast our programmes in a community of 50-100 people. We have bought a slot of 30 minutes from All India Radio, in lieu All India Radio has widened its listenership, though they charge fee of Rs 3600 for this slot," says Bharti, of "Ujaas Radio" run by KMVS.

Community Radio is emerging as strong medium in rural, remote and tribal dominated areas. It is not a medium of entertainment like conventional radio but it needs strong government support in terms of awareness and simplified procedure.


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