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Non-serious community radio players must go: Indian official

13 March 2014

Ashok Kumar and Jaskirat Sethi

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The Indian government looks at Community Radio not just as a tool for empowering marginalized people but also a means to bridge the digital divide.

New Delhi: Community Radio is one of the most important mediums of communication in the remote areas of the country, said Bimal Julka, Secretary, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, during the inaugural day of the fourth National Community Radio Sammelan in New Delhi. The conference is being organised by India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) in association with OneWorld Foundation India.

Julka said that Community Radio brings empowerment to the local people by providing them with relevant information. “The talent to run community radio lies within and I can say with conviction that people running the community radio stations do have the leadership qualities in them. Including community radio as a tool of communication will bridge the digital divide,” he said.

Unveiling the Community Radio Compendium-2014 on the inaugural day of the conference, Julka said that Community Radio stations will serve as an important tool towards a positive change. “This compendium contains information on all the operational CR stations in the country and will be an excellent reference point for policy makers,” he said.

Highlighting the importance of innovation, Julka said that it cannot happen without serious efforts. Calling the operators for a collective responsibility, he said that self- regulation is panacea for transparency. “There is a need for deep engagement with stake holders, sector experts and Community Radio operators,” he said.

The Indian government also asked the grassroots organizations to come forward and tap the potential of the Community Radio. Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, regretted that many people are blocking the frequencies and not doing any serious work.

She said that there are163 community radio stations across the country reaching out to the unreached areas and catering to the marginalized communities. She said that Community Radio stations are bringing a silent revolution in the country by working on various sectors including health and education. Of these 163 stations, 93 are managed by the educational institutions while 58 stations are managed by the NGOs.

Talking about the Community Radio Support Scheme (CRSS), Sahu, said this new scheme will support radio stations for purchasing equipment. “Eighteen equipments have been shortlisted for the website by the technical committee. The total allocation of Rs 100 crore for 5 years (18.3million) has been cleared for the development of community radio. Out of this, around Rs 90 crore will be for the infrastructure development,” she said.

She said that government has seriously looked into the recommendations of given by the Community Radio Stations during the last year’s conference. One of the suggestions of including peer reviews as one of the criteria was used for selections CR stations for the awards.

Highlighting the role of accountability, she said that transparency has to be at both the ends, including the ministry and the Community Radio Stations.

J S Mathur, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said that apart from other benefits, a Community Radio helps in preserving the cultural heritage as they have recorded local songs for posterity. “Local artists have found a new platform to showcase their talent through this medium,” Mathur said.

He said that it was an effective tool for giving voice to people in different parts of the country. “Government is taking an approach of a facilitator than a regulator and licensor which has led to a big growth in the number of community radio stations,” he said. Mathur, however, acknowledged that community radio stations are still facing many issues in India and assured that government was taking all possible steps to build a positive environment needed for the flourishing of the Community Radio.

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