Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Community radio: Riding airwaves for change

In a remote village of Kutch, elderly men listen to the radio with rapt attention as a play stresses horrors of domestic violence whereas in Sanand near Ahmedabad, a group of illiterate women dial a number to consult a doctor on a phone-in programme of a radio for gynaecological problems.

In both the examples, it is not the 'mainstream' radio that is bringing in the silent revolution in the state but the community radio that optimizes the power of airwaves.

Members of more than 20 organizations from Gujarat and neighbouring states attended a regional consultation workshop in the city organized by the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) and OneWorld Foundation India in collaboration with Rudi no Radio by Sewa. The three-day workshop aims at explaining the procedure to the NGOs and organizations interested in setting up the community radio and addressing issues such as fundraising and sustainability.

Talking about the need of such an initiative, Namrata Bali, director, Sewa Academy, told TOI that out of 148 community radio (CR) stations in India, only five are functioning in the state. "We are yet to tap the full potential of the medium where a community can own the station and can disseminate relevant content right from social messages to infotainment among the members.

In Gujarat, we have experienced social transformation in areas such as health, livelihood and gender issues," she said. However it is all not rosy on the CR front. The free airwave advocates have pointed out issues such as tedious and monotonous procedure for setting up a station including permission from four central ministries. , requirements for such a station and the biggest hurdle - applying online. The NGO representatives said that it might be an irony to expect a community in interiors of the country going for CR to have knowledge of internet or English. Another issue faced by most of the organizations is sustainability as without backing of a parent organization, it is difficult for the radio to survive.