No funds available for a silent revolution
Delegates at a community radio conclave demand more government funds
In what could be the step towards bringing about a silent revolution at the grassroots, the government of India has promised more attention and support to the community radio stations across the country. This was announced at the first ever National Community Radio Sammelan organised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting from 7 to 10 April in New Delhi.
Inaugurating the conclave on 7 April, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni admitted that the Re 1 per second advertisement rates set by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) for community radio stations is shameful. She told the delegates that the government would study if the infrastructural costs of community radio stations could be met through MP fund allotted to every constituency.
“The community radio movement is a great revolution in the country,” said Dr R Sreedher, Director of Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia, which organised the conclave jointly with the ministry. “There is a community radio station among the fishermen community near the Kalpakkam nuclear reactor in Tamil Nadu. Imagine the service it can do if something like the radiation fallout in Japan happens there,” he said.
But he also pointed out the abysmal funding provided by the government to the community radios.
“Community radio stations have not got a single penny for advertisements from the government even though it is a shameful rate of one rupee per second,” he said. “The first recommendation to review the DAVP rate was submitted in 2004. A committee was formed after that but there has been no response in this regard from the government till now,” he added.
Sajan Venniyoor, general secretary of the Community Radio Forum, said that if the government wants to support the movement it should fund the radio stations. “Many international agencies are ready to fund community radio stations. But, they are not allowed to receive funds from any international agency except UN agencies and the World Bank,” he said.
M Ganapathy, a delegate from Tamil Nadu hailed the government’s announcement to provide more funds and said that if the promise translates into action the movement has bright future.
The representatives of close to hundred operational community radio stations from across the country took part in the conclave.
There were many success stories of community radio stations that were shared.
Vandana Kate, a house wife from Baramati in Maharsashtra, is one of the many women who have been empowered by the community radio movement. Kate, who was trained by the community radio station Vasundhara Vahini to host programmes on social issues, is preparing to contest in the next municipal election. She attributes it to the courage and education she gained by being associated with the radio station.
The Holy Cross Community Radio in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, is about to get a new director, a young girl from the slums, who used to host programmes on the station earlier. She has been promoted to the post of director now.
Radio Active from Bengaluru received thunderous applause for helping a transgender reach out to her community in the city through a programme hosted by her on the station. Apart from empowering the community and creating awareness among them, community radio stations also have brought out chilling exposes.
Namaskar Radio in Konark, Odisha, exposed the infamous dal scam in the state, which led to the resignation of Women and Child Development Minister Pramila Mallik in February 2011.
Thufail PT is a Correspondent with Tehelka.com