In any democracy there is space for three distinct genres of media- Public service, private, commercial and the community owned. The objective of all three are different though there may be overlap in the programming content.
Community radio has the objective of empowering the marginalised and giving them voice. This being the objective, the community radio also serves well as a medium to inform the community and also motivate the community to share in the task of nation building. The community radio stations across the world has allowed the marginalised- women, tribal folk, the Dalits and the migrants and the underprivileged to speak on air.
In India community radio is a very recent entrant. The move began with the opening of the airwaves following the Hon’ble Supreme court’s judgement on “airwaves as public property.” This put an end to the debate as to whether radio spectrum was a largesse to be used only by the Government and allowed the auctioning of spectrum to private players. The Government also brought in a third category of community radio licensees- the community radio licensees. In 2003 the community radio sector was opened up to educational institutions and later in 2006 to the non- governmental and NGO sectors.
Community radio has also been effectively used in disaster communication-whether it was the Orissa cyclone in 2013, the Chennai and Cuddalore floods in 2015, the Uttarakhand floods in 2014.
Community Radio has great potential for connecting communities and inspiring community action. It serves as an important communication tool for the marginalised to know about their rights and also ensure sharing of their rights. At present there are 140 operational community radio stations in the country, almost half of them run by educational institutions and half by NGOs. Many stations work on issues of sustainable agriculture, women’s empowerment, micro credit schemes besides preserving and propagating the folk and traditional music and culture.
Those interested in listening to some of the programmes can visit edaa.in (Ek duniya anek awaas) an online platform where one can listen to audios of programmes aired by CR stations.
India’s first emergency FM station in flood-hit Cuddalore, TN, 107.8 FM Cuddalore District Administration set up an emergency 24-hour community radio service (frequency 107.8Hz) to disseminate information relating to relief and rehabilitation of flood victims and to allow them to air their grievances. A phone call from John nelson, Managing Trustee of Sarnalayam trust in Cuddalore is what it took to get the ball rolling to set up the first emergency FM station in India. Cuddalore district was among the severely affected areas by the floods that hit Tamilnadu on November 8, 2015. Reportedly, 80 people died, two villages were completely cut off from the road, and as many as six out of 13 blocks in the district were severely affected. The most difficult task in disaster mitigation is to cope with the aftermath of disaster and loss. And Cuddalore was no different. Nelson felt a radio station would be timely to cater to immediate needs- for warning signals, connecting families, emergency announcements, direct people to relief material and vice versa. You can read more on how this happened at http://uccommedia.in/news/emergency-radio-in-india-happens-at-last/ http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/ekhMJYK3IJ6KyZtB0knBiP/Why-community-radio-matters.html
—–S K Rao, former Addl DG ,
Directorate of Field Publicity,
Ministry of Information & Broadcasting,
Govt of India