The future of Community Radio in India

With all the noise around new technology

We tend to forget the old.

In search of diamonds, we lose the gold

The future of it will slowly unfold.

It can create wonders, it can bring revolution,

Music with info turns into a great combination

Though the country is moving towards digitalization,

But nothing can overpower a community radio station.

Digitalisation is the new media, believes the new generation and the government. Undoubtedly the internet is ruling the minds of the people and is a big threat to the old mediums of communication specifically radio. When it comes to community radio, a lot of development is to be done to increase its audience. Radio often plays a side role in advertising plans in India, an add-on to television, print and now even new media.

Community radios are a central form of communication, information and entertainment for low-income communities, where the internet is not easily available. Radio got a new identity after FM radio was opened up to private players in 2001. That makes it a relatively new market comprising of people from the rural India and economically weaker sections.

Community radio anyways has a very niche audience and it is mainly to aware the people about a social cause. The future of community radio is though dwindling but the developers should be more concerned about the awareness it creates. PM Narendra Modi initiative of the monthly address on Mann ki Baat on All India Radio also gave a boost to the radio industry.

The objective with which a community radio is established engages not only people interested but also lives of many others. It empowers the minority groups like women, LGBT community, disabled, North Eastern and many others to come together and upgrade themselves. It gives a voice to them and imparts entrepreneurial skills through its non-financial services.

A major reason why the growth of this sector has been slow is financial consideration. Supported by NGOs, they don’t have much of government aid. Also, license and policies tie the feet of the low-budget stations. If we think about subscriptions working for them, then we must come to the reality of rural India which doesn’t have earnings to pay for subscriptions. Minimal advertisers don’t adequately fund them. Technical know-how of radio is lacking in the tech-less areas adding onto the problems of community radio. All this can be solved by workshops that could be arranged by the government for potential community radio users. They can be given lessons of being tech savvy, about how to use new media and spread awareness and also to train the community members to develop basic production and post-production skills. Policies can be eased down for social benefit too. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should consider the cause and aid the stations.

During the 5th National Community Radio Sammelan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley cleared the myth that airway is government’s monopoly. He expressed his views about freedom of expression that the broadcaster has and also the right to information with the listeners, and emphasized on promoting Community radio. Also in the meeting, TRAI indicated that the permission for CRS should continue to be at five years.

We all have heard of the rabbit and tortoise story during our childhood. Community radio works very much on the same lines. Though there is a gulf between community radio and other medium of communication regarding the target audience, the cost to run a station, the entertainment factor, government policies and much more, still they are predicted to grow in future. But in the mean time it is important for the developers to fill in the gaps that make its future dicey. The developers should timely bring forward campaigns so that the Government of India recognizes its potential and support the cause.

Also, Community radio should adopt other mediums and bring out fusion to promote their existence. Going online can surely increase their listeners. Tie-ups with FM stations and media houses to get coverage of the cause will spread the awareness faster. They also create their websites for promotion. To bring some social development, community radio is neither an end nor an independent means to reach the marginalised audience. It needs coordination with base level initiatives and is not a sole arm but an additional one for social communication. But it should be kept in mind that the new technology is needed to support, not recast the old.

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