The Indian government is tuning into community radio in a big way
to reach out to rural and farflung areas, with plans to help
increase the number of such stations from the present 100 to 4,000
in the next few years, say officials.
Run by educational institutions and NGOs, such radio stations
cater to the local community and reach people within a 15 km
radius of a station.
"The information and broadcasting ministry has already issued the
first phase of licence to 263 stations and out of that, 102 are
operational," said Indrajeet Grewal, head of the Community Radio
Stations Cell in the ministry.
"To serve the cause of the community, their urgent needs, create
awareness on all vital issues, underscore the life, culture and
tradition of a community, these radio stations are being set up,"
Around 800 educational institutions and NGOs across the country,
including 42 from eight northeastern states, have sought licenses
for community radio stations.
Funded by the ministry, community radio stations are run for and
by the people. Various programmes of local interest - folk songs,
weather reports, agricultural talk shows etc - form the content.
Grewal was speaking on the sidelines of a regional level three-day
community radio awareness workshop cum seminar organised by the
information and broadcasting ministry in association with
Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) and Tripura
"The content of community radio stations is being specially
designed keeping in mind the social, economic, cultural and
educational aspirations of the community," content development
expert and media consultant Vipin Sharma said.
"They cater to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting
material that is popular with a local audience but is overlooked
by existing more powerful broadcast groups," he said.
In December 2002, the central government approved a policy to
grant licences for community radio stations to well established
educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology
(IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).
"In 2007, the government after reconsidering all the aspects had
decided to broaden the base by bringing non-profit organisations
like civil society and voluntary organisations under its ambit,"
Anna University in Chennai owned the first community radio station
in India and the Anna FM was launched Feb 1, 2004.
Northeast India has two community radio stations, both in Guwahati.
The Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University, the only open
varsity of the region, and Guwahati University have been running
their stations for the past year.
The third CRS in the northeast will be launched by Tripura
(Central) University next year.
"As Tripura University is situated in a rural area in western
Tripura, the proposed community radio station would better cater
to the needs of the adjoining locality," university
vice-chancellor Arunoday Saha said.
Grewal said state agriculture universities, the Indian Council for
Agricultural Research, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, registered
societies, autonomous bodies and registered public trusts too are
eligible to run these radios. The information ministry will also
extend logistical help for setting the stations, apart from
providing content writers and consultants.
"As per the instructions of the ministry, profit making
organisations, an individual or a political party cannot apply for
these licences," he said.