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Let the community operate their radio stations, says Dr Sreedher

13 July 2012

Rahul Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

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Dr R Sreedher, media expert and community media practitioner, who recently retired from the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) speaks to Rahul Kumar of OneWorld South Asia, on how the community radio should be entrusted in the hands of the people to make it a really empowering tool for social change.

OneWorld South Asia: Dr Sreedher you are credited with starting the first educational radio station in India and, later, also the first community radio station. It’s been a long time since then, so how do you see the progress till now?

Dr R Sreedher: I happened to start the first educational radio station called Gyanvani in 2001. It came as a bonanza to the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) when privatisation was taking place and the government decided to reserve one frequency for the social sector. They were afraid of giving it to the communities so they said, ‘let us reserve it for education’, so that is how IGNOU got 40 radio stations.

I was able to start the first radio station in Allahabad on November 7, 2001, but unfortunately I left in 2003 and the way in which I visualised the educational radio channel did not happen. I wanted it to be a decentralised one with every centre having its own committee—deciding content. I saw it this way–local content, local school, colleges and local NGOs making use of the radio station. It has somehow become IGNOU-centric. So it is a failure to me. Educational radio channel is a failure because of lack of initiative, lack of innovation and lack of dedication.

That is why I was thinking of starting a community radio channel because when one of the ministers of Information and Broadcasting saw four different languages, four different cultures were being projected through the educational channel, she told the minister of Human Resources Development that if this is good to be the role of educational radio, I don’t mind giving you frequencies to all colleges and universities to start a radio station. So that’s how it started. 

Seeing the success of the first few Gyanvani radio stations made them give low power radio transmitters to all other educational institutions, that is why the first campus community radio policy came into being in 2002. The guidelines were first notified in 2003 and we framed an application form. I was one of the parties to develop the form and they said, ‘don’t ask any questions, just ask the name and address and the institution’s name and address and we will be able to find out their antecedents and be able to give the license. I myself happened to apply for the first license for Anna University and found that even the guidelines of which I was part of, it took me more than a year to get the license.

From one radio station in 2004, today it is more than 136 stations. That means the growth is good. People are expecting at least 1,000 radio stations very soon. We have already got 1,000 people applying for community radio stations. The applications may be held up with various ministries for various reasons, may be even the applicants themselves also but the growth is fine. Now, there will be a leap forward so I don’t think the community radio is non-starter, it is taking place but it is a slow growth.  

For rest of the interview click here

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