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Radio Asia 2010: Community radio dissected

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Radio Asia 2010: Community radio dissected

Day Two of Radio Asia 2010 delved upon the various dimensions of the radio industry, including community radio – the opportunities and challenges for community radio in India and the different models are being used all over the world. Use of rapid response radio, which can help during the time of disasters, was also a point of interest during the discussions.

The session was moderated by Louie Tabing, Tambuli Community Radio, the Philippines.

Commenting on the Indian community radio scenario, R Sreedher, Director, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia, said, “In the 80s, for the first time science and knowledge-based programmes started in the country through various local radio stations of All India Radio (AIR). The birth of Gyan Vani put forward the concept of the educational radio, although Gyan Vani had shown a slow rise. Today, AIR has got enough local radio stations, but with time they are dying. There are over 750 applications for community radio stations and only 51 stations are operational. Among them, 43 are run by educational institutions and eight by NGOs. The target is to have 4,000 such community radio stations.”

Talking about the reasons of slow growth of community radio in India, Sreedher noted that there could be various reasons behind the slow growth, and a primary reason was that it took a long time to get a license for this. “Also, there is no viable model available for community radio stations. Community radio requires authentic radio ratings measurement, and a strong exit policy can help in the growth of the community radio,” he noted.

To highlight further on Indian community radio development, Ishwar Singh Mehla, Director, BECIL, India, said, “Community radio can be for a limited area and community only. The most important thing for a community radio is relevant and informative programmes. The right of owning a community radio station was given to educational institutions in 2002, but in the year 2006, it was extended to NGOs and non-profit organisations. Community radio operates in a radius of 5-10 km only. Advertisement of local events and banners can be the source of revenue for community radio.”

On how radio could help during times of disasters, Mike Adams, Rapid Response Radio Unit, UK, said, “The tsunami changed my life a few years back. I realised the role of radio during such a difficult time. During the time of such a disaster, radio can help the survivors by spreading information regarding shelter, food, medicine or any other help. Rapid Response Radio Unit, which carries its radio station in two suitcases, serves the affected community. Ideally, any such radio station should start functioning within 72 hours, but for that we need to be well prepared before any disaster.”

Kalinga Seneviratne, AMIC, Singapore, described his country’s progress in the community radio domain. He stated, “In the past one decade, we have seen 25 per cent increase in radio stations. Most of the community radios are operating on low power and without license. In some provinces, the local government runs community radio models. There are mostly three community radio models – Tambuli, totally driven by volunteers; Catholic Media Networks, Genpeace (which stands for gender and culture of peace); and Radyo Natin, the largest network of community radio stations in the Philippines.”

Citing an example of community radio programming content, P Pavitharan, Kothmale Community Radio, Sri Lanka, said, “In our state, we ask the community to decide on all the programmes that they want to listen. Community radio should be interactive and the radio mike should go to the community only.”


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Prior to joining Madison PR in 2012 Chaudhary was Group President Corporate Communications at Reliance Industries Limited.