Community radio going big in India

Agartala : The Indian government is tuning into community radio in a big way to reach out to rural and farflung areas, with plans to help increase the number of such stations from the present 100 to 4,000 in the next few years, say officials.

Run by educational institutions and NGOs, such radio stations cater to the local community and reach people within a 15 km radius of a station.

“The information and broadcasting ministry has already issued the first phase of licence to 263 stations and out of that, 102 are operational,” said Indrajeet Grewal, head of the Community Radio Stations Cell in the ministry.

“To serve the cause of the community, their urgent needs, create awareness on all vital issues, underscore the life, culture and tradition of a community, these radio stations are being set up,” he said.

Around 800 educational institutions and NGOs across the country, including 42 from eight northeastern states, have sought licenses for community radio stations.

Funded by the ministry, community radio stations are run for and by the people. Various programmes of local interest – folk songs, weather reports, agricultural talk shows etc – form the content.

Grewal was speaking on the sidelines of a regional level three-day community radio awareness workshop cum seminar organised by the information and broadcasting ministry in association with Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) and Tripura (Central) University.

“The content of community radio stations is being specially designed keeping in mind the social, economic, cultural and educational aspirations of the community,” content development expert and media consultant Vipin Sharma said.

“They cater to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting material that is popular with a local audience but is overlooked by existing more powerful broadcast groups,” he said.

In December 2002, the central government approved a policy to grant licences for community radio stations to well established educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).

“In 2007, the government after reconsidering all the aspects had decided to broaden the base by bringing non-profit organisations like civil society and voluntary organisations under its ambit,” Grewal said.

Anna University in Chennai owned the first comunity radio station in India and the Anna FM was launched Feb 1, 2004.

Northeast India has two community radio stations, both in Guwahati. The Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University, the only open varsity of the region, and Guwahati University have been running their stations for the past year.

The third CRS in the northeast will be launched by Tripura (Central) University next year.

“As Tripura University is situated in a rural area in western Tripura, the proposed community radio station would better cater to the needs of the adjoining locality,” university vice-chancellor Arunoday Saha said.

Grewal said state agriculture universities, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, registered societies, autonomous bodies and registered public trusts too are eligible to run these radios. The information ministry will also extend logistical help for setting the stations, apart from providing content writers and consultants.

“As per the instructions of the ministry, profit making organisations, an individual or a political party cannot apply for these licences,” he said.

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