CONNECTING PEOPLE : VOICE OF COMMUNITY RADIO

Amolina Ray Programme Manager, Community RadioJU “Radio could be the most wonderful public communication system imaginable… if it were capable, not only of transmitting, but of receiving, of making the listener not only hear but also speak” Bertolt Brecht1 As compared to other mass media, Radio is the most accessible means of communication in use !ts listenership is more far reaching than the readership of newspapers and audiences of television "n one hand, it can befriend a non#literate household and on the other hand, cater to visually challenged people !t is effective wherever people can hear and speak $oreover it is a secondary medium i e people can engage themselves in other work while listening to radio !t is easy to run and low on maintenance Broadcasting can be divided into three general categories% &ublic service broadcasting, 'ommercial or private broadcasting and 'ommunity broadcasting &ublic service broadcasting refers to the broadcasting service controlled by the (tate As the name suggests, 'ommercial broadcasting solely focuses on profit and is a private enterprise 'ommunity broadcasting is a non#profit enterprise !n !ndia, the license for 'ommunity Radio is sanctioned by the $inistry of !nformation and Broadcasting to )ducational !nstitutes, Agricultural !nstitutes and *on#+overnment "rganisations A ,community- can be defined as a geographically based group of people or a group of the citi.ens with shared interests A 'ommunity Radio should be essentially non#profit making, it should be owned and controlled by 'ommunity and should have participation of the 'ommunity !n !ndia, in order to run a community radio, it is mandatory that /01 of the content is generated with community participation As far as ownership is concerned, physically it is owned by an educational institute or *+"2 however 'ommunity "wnership and control should be reflected in the programmes it generates 3he community people should en4oy the freedom to conceptuali.e and create their own programmes which is close to their interests !n current media, including Radio, messages transmit from centre to periphery 3he listener 5audience5reader has no active role to play e6cept that of the passive role of receiver 3he mainstream radio has a centrali.ed programme production which is unable to cater to the specific re7uirements of the diverse !ndian population As a result, no specific focus is defined 3he mainstream broadcaster fails to understand that the e6periences of the divergent !ndian population are not uniform &ublic service broadcasts and 'ommercial broadcasts try to make a superficial attempt to interact with listeners through live or phone#in programmes !n these interactive programmes, the listeners have to follow the dictate of the broadcasters !n 'ommercial Radio, most of the programmes are high on popular entertainment so that
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+irard, Bruce A Passion for Radio: Radio Waves and Community. 'anada%Black Rose Books,1889 p 11

they can attract a greater number of audiences !t engages itself in general programming so to attract ma6imum advertisements :ere comes the need for 'ommunity Radio !t is an e6pression of the community, by the community and for the community 'ommunity Radio is a media in which communities participate as planners, producers and performers !t provides a platform for the community to voice their own e6periences and to critically e6amine issues, processes and policies affecting their lives 3he top#down approach has been replaced by the bottom # up approach where the audience decides what s5he wants from the radio broadcasts ;ith the increasing globali.ation of information, 'ommunity radio helps in diverse ways to protect the language and heritage of communities 'ommunity Radio not only demands participation but also tries to reflect the local flavor of its area !n a nation like !ndia, the language issue should be addressed, given the large numbers of different local languages 3he language, customs and social practices, vary from place to place and region to region 'ommunity radio helps to preserve and promote the local cultural identity <rom the language to the content to the problems raised and discussed everything is rooted in locality !t also represents different interests of a community or a universal interest of different communities residing in a particular area Reaching out to the un#reached, community radio can be thought of as a medium providing power to the powerless !t addresses the practical issues of the masses, and also may act as an instrument to redresses their sorrow and sufferings 'ommunity radio will have its say in empowering the marginali.ed and will be instrumental in bringing much needed social change in a country like !ndia where the target audience is heterogeneous 'ommunity radio can be better utili.ed by providing factual information about agriculture, health camps in the area, weather conditions in the coverage area, information about employment will help the listeners to a great e6tent and thereby serve to increase listenership !nformation from government agencies and departments regarding local welfare programmes may be furnished to community radios for creating awareness among the listeners 'ommunity Radio can be a household name only if it produces good 7uality programming, which will appeal to listeners =espite the democratic attitude of 'ommunity Radio, it has to constantly compete with 'ommercial and &ublic service broadcasters &eople will not tune in 4ust because it e6ists but because of the valuable information it generates in an attractive form !f the 7uality of programmes is poor then people will either switch off or tune in to other channels :owever, the need for 7uality programmes should not be an e6cuse for e6clusion of participation of community in the production process !n some cases, we find that the programmes have been produced by radio professionals at the cost of participation of the community people 3he e6cuse was that the community people are not e7uipped to produce programmes !n ma4ority cases it is seen that the professionals are good at producing commercial programmes but not good at producing 7uality community radio programmes 3he challenge, therefore, lies in mi6ing technical knowledge with the participation of community members, who lack these skills $oreover, the host of the

programme may not be a professional artist but that person should be sincere and dedicated Apart from having good voice, the person should speak in the collo7uial language so that ma4ority of people can understand (5he should be a representative of the community and be sensitive to the needs and demands of that particular 'ommunity Before starting a 'ommunity Radio (etup, proper surveys should be conducted "n one hand, these surveys give an insight of the e6pectations of the local people, whereas on the other hand it helps to promote the would#be radio station among the locals !t should accommodate 7ueries like ,what do you want to listen to>-, ,what time of the day do you tune#in>-, ,what are the issues that need to be addressed>-, ,is there any particular social problem faced by you>- ,would you like to make a programme yourself >-etc 3he 7uestionnaire should be interactive in nature and ma4ority of the 7uestions should be descriptive 3here should be ample scope in the 7uestionnaire for the suggestions and feedback 3he programme should be broadly based on these surveys keeping in mind the policy of 'ommunity Radio by the $inistry of !nformation and Broadcasting According to this policy, ,3he &ermission :older shall not broadcast any programs, which relate to the news and current affairs and are otherwise political in nature -9 3he ,&rogrammes for broadcast should be relevant to the educational, developmental, social and cultural needs of the community- ? &rogrammes based on religion are also banned by the $inistry @nlike 'ommercial Radio, most of the programmes are pre#recorded programmes 3he time and type of the programme should be kept in mind !f transmission starts in the morning, then light entertainment shows may be broadcasted &rogrammes based on domestic sphere should ideally be broadcast in the afternoon, whereas $usical programmes and talk shows should go on air in the evening 3he host of the programme plays a vital role in making a programme popular among its listeners 3he 7uality of the voice is as important as the content of the programme !t is the responsibility of the host to make the programme attractive 3here is no written rule that a host has to have a particular 7ualification, though it is often preferred that the person should have the basic knowledge of recording and be familiar with the microphone According to &rof *ilan4ana +upta, 'ourse 'oordinator of , Radio Productions-, @+' Approved 'ertificate 'ourse, “3he host of 'ommunity Radios should not try to imitate the RAs of 'ommercial Radios 'reativity and individuality are important, but even more important is the host-s involvement with the community 3his should be reflected in the personality, language and attitude of the host ” (5he should have a good voice and should be able to modulate it according to the format of the programme !f it is a talk show s5he should possess a diverse knowledge on various sub4ects as well as should be comfortable with the speaker5s 3he bottomline is s5he should possess the skill in combining these elements into an informative package

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A good host needs to be a good listener too (5he should be the representative of the community 3his will help the listener to identify with him5her $oreover, as mentioned earlier, if the host is from the community he5she will be familiar with the language and culture of that particular community 3his is the special characteristic of the community radio !t will help to break the unseen wall that e6ists between the performer and the listener :ere, the performer is the listener at one time and at other time the listener is the performer Case Study
On 14th April, 2008 the first Community Radio in Eastern India came into existence !or the first t"o months it #roadcasted t"o and half hours of pro$rammin$ for se%en days a "ee& 'ith the support of its Community people, soon it $raduated to #roadcast 8 ( hours of pro$rammin$ daily startin$ from 11)00 a m *+he success of Community Radio ,- lies in the fact that the community of listeners has no" #ecome a community of producers and hosts. says /rof 0ilan1ana 2upta, Con%ener of Community Radio ,- Community Radio ,- transmits pro$rammes "ithin an air radius of 10 34 centerin$ ,ada%pur -ni%ersity has #een set up #y the -ni%ersity

5efore the #irth of Community Radio,-, se%eral sur%eys "ere done in the near#y areas +he sur%eys re%ealed mixed reactions from people One section of the society "ondered the need of a ne" radio station 5y and lar$e, people "ere i$norant of the concept of the Community Radio Radio "as either synonymous "ith Commercial Radio or 6cultural7 AIR 8mall sections of the society "ere thrilled "hen they learnt that they can ma&e their o"n pro$rammes and hear their o"n %oice on air 8e%eral %arieties of su$$estions poured in 4a1ority of people "anted to hear 68ruti nata&7 on Radio a$ain Community Radio,- is instrumental in re%i%in$ this $enre /eople form their o"n $roups, many a times "rite their o"n scripts, rehearse at their homes and come and record in the studio +he topic of the drama %aries from social issues li&e do"ry, female foeticide, and deforestation to perception of Ra#indranath +a$ore in popular culture It is one of the #est "ays to encoura$e community participation *'hene%er a person from the community or a listener come to our studio, "e ma&e them feel comforta#le and important and literally ma&e them feel its their o"n radio 8o e%ery person feels its their family . 8ays A#hishe& 9as, /ro$ramme Coordinator, Community Radio,Often it is seen that listeners calls us for their feed#ac& and end up in doin$ their o"n production After recei%in$ positi%e feed#ac& and encoura$ement from their community people they also sho" coura$e to do on:sta$e performance;;; *Once "e "ere

scolded #y our listeners "hen the music did not match the mood of the particular scene. says A#hishe& 9as <oices of Children ha%e #een conspicuous #y its a#sence in 4edia for lon$ Community Radio,- has tri$$ered a chan$e in media #y introducin$ Children7s pro$ramme 68hishu +irtho7 In this pro$ramme stories of different $enres are read out for children 8ometimes adults lend their %oice to these stories for their little darlin$s and many a times children share their fa%ourite stories "ith their friends In order to ma&e the pro$ramme attracti%e to the listeners, proper sound effects must #e coupled "ith animated %oice *'e are flooded "ith phone:calls from listeners from the a$e:$roup of ( to =( to read stories. says 2opal 8ar&ar, +echnician, Community Radio,- +he success of this particular pro$ramme has encoura$ed different Commercial Radio 8tations to em#race the $enre of story tellin$; Apart from readin$ stories, 68hishu +irtho7 also has 6Child Radio Reporter7 +his particular se$ment is in association "ith -0ICE! Child Radio Reporters address important social issues #y $i%in$ %oice to children "ho are often excluded from the a%aila#le social, cultural and media channels +hese Children are from local 2o%ernment schools and 02Os 'ith #asic trainin$ these #uddin$ reporters %oice their opinion on issues "hich they identify "ith +hese children are dou#ly mar$inali>ed: for #ein$ children and for #elon$in$ to economically depri%ed #ac&$round Community Radio,tries to fulfill its commitment #y placin$ these children at the centre from periphery +o host a pro$ramme on a social issue in a Community Radio it is mandatory for the host to #e compassionate a#out the su#1ect One incident happened "hich is "orth mentionin$ After recordin$ a pro$ram on AI98 A#hishe& 9as, the host of the pro$ramme, recei%ed a call from a %ictim "ho "anted to narrate his story ?ater one follo":up episode "as done "here the %ictim #ecame the $uest and shared his story "ith other listeners +his incident underlines the impact of Community Radio, in $eneral and the role of the host, in particular +he host had $i%en the coura$e to the %ictim "ho $a%e him the resol%e to come out in the open and share his story "ith other people 8tudents from physically mar$inali>ed sections li&e %isually: challen$ed should #e encoura$ed to participate Radio is the only medium "here they cannot feel their limitation 4any such students ha%e recorded pro$rammes in Community Radio,- on topics ran$in$ from their fa%ourite son$s to details of their fa%ourite artists to spea&in$ on contemporary topics

+he Community 4em#ers of Community Radio,had also or$ani>ed a picnic +his picnic re%ealed the stren$th of @0 8 4A> 0early 100 community people are the core team mem#ers of Community Radio,+his team #rea&s the #arrier of class, caste, a$e, $ender etc +he performer, listener, producer, host interacted "ith each other +he picnic made the #ond "hich #inds Community Radio,stron$er Community Radio,- is also %isi#le as 6Community7 in social net"or&in$ sites li&e Or&ut, !ace#oo& +he team mem#ers conducts "ee&ly Bui>es li&e 6'ho is the fa%ourite hostC7, 6'hose %oice is the #estC7, 6'hich is the most popular pro$rammeC7 +hese &inds of healthy competition #oost the confidence of the hostD performer and push himDher to $i%e their #est Community Radio,- acts as a #rid$e #et"een the community that exists inside the -ni%ersity and outside It is o"ned #y the mem#ers of the community, irrespecti%e of "hether they are part of the -ni%ersity +o #e a host of a Community Radio is not a ca&e"al& One should &no" "hat a community radio is Apart from ha%in$ a $ood %oice, command o%er lan$ua$e etc, "hich are also the pre:reBuisites of Commercial Radio, "hat sets the host of Community Radio apart is the understandin$ of the pulse of the community sDhe represents

Bibli !"a#$y: 1 Aggarwal, Dir Bala and D ( +upta, 9001, Handbook of Journalism and Mass Communication, *ew =elhi, 'oncept &ublishing 'ompany 9 'risell, Andrew, 18EF, Understanding Radio, *ew Gork, Routledge ? +irard, Bruce, 1889, A Passion for Radio: Radio Waves and Community 'anada, Black Rose Books