Community radio stations have been an integral part of the Indian radio ecosystem but have failed to receive the kind of recognition they deserve. As of May 15, 2012, there are approximately 126 operational community radio stations in India, out of which 78 are focussed on education, 38 on NGOs and 10 on ‘Krishi Vigyan Kendra’.
It is a myth that community radio (CR) stations are still a rural phenomenon. In fact, facts and figures indicate the opposite.
LD Mandloi, Director General, All India Radio said, “Community radio makes a syndicated format sound local and be locally visible.” As many as 35 CR stations in India operate in urban areas. 2011-2012 saw 25 CR stations being operationalised and 100 letters of intent issued (highest number so far).
In a recent project, with the support of Schwab Charitable Fund, Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Indian version of educational children’s series Sesame Street initiated a radiophone project to address the educational needs of disenfranchised children through a convergence of technologies.
The radiophone project includes a localised Galli Galli Sim Sim educational programme aired on 10 community radio stations. It features 60 brand new Galli Galli Sim Sim radio episodes with a curricular focus on literacy, math and healthy habits for life.
The project is reaching over 1.4 million people in partnership with 10 community radio stations in North India and Central India – Chamba and Supi (Uttarakhand), Lalitpur (UP), Solan (HP), Mewat, Ghaghas and Gurgaon (Haryana), and Orcha and Shivpuri (MP).
CR stations face a number of serious obstacles making it very difficult for them to survive in an atmosphere of low government support and recognition. Only 126 community radio stations are active, while 370 licenses were issued.
Some of the major challenges faced by community radio station include non-availability of spectrum in local areas, low awareness, financial constraints and unskilled manpower.
Community radio is in its initial stage; the Indian Government has set a target of setting up 4,000 stations in the future. However, this initiative can be materialized only if content, funding, manpower and licensing concerns are addressed. Also, the local communities have to be empowered to operate independently with minimum support from and reliance on the Government. It is, therefore, important to consider community radio as an alternative distribution platform for radio to entertain, create awareness on social issues and address community needs.
Compiled by Saloni Surti on the basis of CII-E&Y’s report on the Indian radio industry named ‘Poised for growth: FM radio in India’