Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting S Jagathrakshakan said today that community radio stations had empowered the masses and gave them a sense of belonging by effectively facilitating the growth of peoples' empowerment in the far and remote corners of the country.
He said CRS had bridged the digital divide as the aim was to connect the aspirations of the people to the information highway. CRS provides a platform to people to create their individual and collective identities.
He was speaking at the inauguration of the Second National Community Radio Sammelan, which commenced today with the objective of carving out a new roadmap for mainstreaming community radio as an effective outreach tool for community empowerment.
The three day event, organised by the I&B Ministry in association with Commonwealth Educational Media centre for Asia (CEMCA), also saw the presentation of the first National CRS awards.
I&B Secretary Uday Kumar Varma outlined the roadmap for the growth of the community radio movement in the 12th Five Year plan. It was necessary to target the uncovered areas in the country with a cost effective and operational business model, he said.
The Secretary called upon the participants to avoid delays in operationalising the licences in view of the scarcity and squatting over spectrum. For the movement to reach a sizeable target it was critical to be innovative, encourage out of the box thinking and learn from the best practices. A critical factor determining the growth of the movement was the need to focus on cost effective technology and research.
Varma said the Ministry had submitted a proposal to the planning Commission regarding state funding in the next five year plan. For being an effective dissemination tool it was necessary to position the relevance of the medium in disaster management.
The awards were given in five categories: Thematic, Community Engagement, Promoting Local Culture, Most Creative/Innovative Programme Content, and Sustainability Model Award.
The Ministry has so far issued 363 permissions to set up Community Radio Stations in the country. Out of this, 126 stations have become operational while others are in the pipeline.
The Sammelan has brought together more than 150 stakeholders including Community Radio operators, UN partners, activists, Government departments and experts from various countries like USA, UK, Australia and South Africa.
In the last two years, Ministry has taken several initiatives to strengthen the community radio movement in India. Permission process for the CR applications has been fast tracked through better coordination with stakeholder Ministries. People can also now apply online and track the status of their applications at www.cronlineindia.net. This has brought about transparency and accountability in the system. A Facilitation Centre has also been opened up in the Ministry with a toll-free phone number where people can call up for any information relating to community radio. Due to these initiatives the number of permissions issued by the Ministry for setting up community radio stations has increased from 186 to 363 and number of operational CRS has increased from 64 to 126 in the last two years.
The Ministry has been organising awareness and capacity building Workshops all over the country from 2007 onwards to create awareness about Community Radio Policy. Around 32 Workshops have been organised so far. These Workshops have proved to be useful not only to spread awareness but also build capacities of the NGOs and other organizations to operate Community Radio Stations in an effective manner.
The Ministry has partnered with Ek Duniya Anek Aaawaz (EDAA) which is an audio content exchange platform for community radio stations, to have a separate micro-site on EDAA for the coverage of the 2nd National Community Radio Sammelan on new media platforms.
EDAA is a web based open content exchange platform for community radio broadcasters. The platform enables the CR stations and other content producers to share their audio content and other resources, thus facilitating meaningful utilisation of resources breaking geographical boundaries. This site is operated by OneWorld Asia, an NGO.
Jaisakthivel, ADXC, India.