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Volunteerism alone cannot sustain Community Radio

21 March 2014

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

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For Community Radio, confidence and conviction is more important than money, believes, Dr Sreedher, a Community Media expert.

New Delhi: Community Radio Stations need to develop a business plans and explore innovative ways for generating revenues, suggested representatives of various CR stations at the fourth National Community Radio Sammelan in New Delhi. The conference was organized by India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) in association with One World Foundation India (OWFI).

Though many speakers were of the view that financial sustainability is the key sustainability factor, several others believed that confidence and not money was the key to sustainability of Community Radio.

Dr Sreedher, Community Media Expert, said that financial sustainability alone is not enough. According to him, confidence and conviction is more important than money. “My own Community Radio station (Anna CR) has a budget of mere Rs 40,000 per month and has bagged two awards this month,” he said.

Sreedher highlighted the need of training the top management and added that education can bring confidence and a sense of ownership to the controllers of Community Radio. Community Radio should not confuse people with what they do not want, Sreedher exhorts.

Experts also called for giving a thought to the ‘puzzle of volunteerism’, especially in the deprived sections of society as they felt that people from these sections find it difficult to work for Community Radio without any monetary support.

K S Rejimon, Director, MIB, said that there should be a continuous participatory approach for content management. Community Radio should maintain consistent broadcast hours, he said. Rejimon stated that retention of staff was a critical factor for the sustainability of Community Radio. “We are drawing a roadmap for capacity building of the sustainability of Community Radio personnel,” he said.

Talking about technical challenges, Regimon said that stations often face technical glitches. “Sorting out minor problems is essential for a station to sustain.Many stations have already taken steps for technical sustainability of the Community Radio,” he said. According to Regimon, financial sustainability is the key factor. “Over the years the funding scenario has improved a lot. Stations need to develop a business plan and explore innovative ways for generating revenues,” he suggested.

Ashish Sen, Former President, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Asia-Pacific, said that ban on news for Community Radio is absolutely problematic. “There has been enough talk about policy reforms and a modified policy is also said to be on its way. We need to ask ourselves as to how the new policy is going to help the cause of Community Radio,” he said.

Venu Arora from Ideosync said that Community Radio is all about voices. “We need to identify key functions which have to be performed continuously for sustainability,” she said.

Archana Kapoor, Generally Secretary of the Community Radio Association (CRA), said that a station itself is a best judge about sustainability. Volunteerism alone cannot sustain Community Radio, she asserted. “The fact that 160 stations have not closed down, shows that they have learned to manage themselves. We need to define sustainability beyond the ambit of financial sustainability. The number of stations alone in a country is not a proof of sustainability,” she said.

Ram Bhat, Vice President, AMARC, Asia Pacific, said that feedback from the listeners is very essential. Stating that a major part of the expense goes towards the salary, he urged the CR stations to cut on the expenses.

Bhat said that radios should stop looking for communities and should build an environment where the communities would find them. Community Radio should make a very diverse move towards diversities of content, gender, castes and communities, he said.

Bhat suggested that media pluralism and media diversity should be the guiding principle for Community Radio. “Let your listeners set the agenda. The CR operators should stop thinking that they will empower the communities. Communities will empower themselves. More freedom is needed at the community level,” he said.

Bhat also highlighted the need for ushering in equitable digital transformation. “Community Radio does not just need editorial independence but diversification of sources of funds. Depending on DAVP alone is not a good idea for a Community Radio,” he said.

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