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Community Radio: Singing New Tunes in South Asia

Author(s): Frederick Noronha

Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 38, No. 22 (May 31 - Jun. 6, 2003), pp. 2168-2172
Published by: Economic and Political Weekly
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Economic and Political Weekly.
Singing New Tunes in South Asia
There are lessons to be learnt from the experimentsin developing communityrun/owned radio
in south Asia and outside. The Philippines has taken communityradio to new heights and
even tiny Nepal has opened up its communitybroadcasting, and in Sri Lanka communityradio
stations are owned by the state.

or over five decades, radio has been one of the most producerat the radio station,sat down and drew the sketchof
appealing tools for participatorycommunication and the programme."Since then, in the last two years, we have
developmentin the world.Radiohas severalcomparative increasedthe durationof the programmefrom 15 minutesto 30
advantagesover the othermedia as a tool for social change.It minutes,done live transmissionsof ICT events, live Internet
is cost-efficient,for thosewho runthe stationandthe audiences. browsing,conductedinterviews,and a lot of otherthings that
It is ideal for the huge illiteratepopulationthat still remains were not conceivable before," said he. In another context
marginalised,especiallyin the ruralareasof the thirdworld.Its Upadhyayasaid, "Thereis no questionthat in urbanand rural
languageand contentcan be made most suited to local needs. Nepal radiois the ubiquitousmedia. A radiois availableat as
It is also relevantto local practices,traditionsandculture.After low as (Nepali) Rs 60 (less than US$ 1), and literacyis not a
the initial investmentis made, sustainabilityof the projectis barrier".Upadhyayexplains:
feasible,and one can depend on communityparticipation.In Successof communityradioin theAmericasandCanadais well
termsof outreachandgeographiccoveragetoo,radiohasa strong known,and in Nepal too this revolutionbegan when Radio
advantage.LastlytheconvergencebetweenradioandtheInternet Sagarmatha becamethe firstcommunityradiostationto be es-
is providingnew strengthsto communityand is seen to have tablishedin the entiresouthAsia. RadioSagarmatha is runby
enormouslyincreasednetworkingopportunities. a groupof environmental and
journalists, the successhas spawned
Yet, in south Asia and, more specifically, in India this is a morethanfive communitystationsin differentpartsof Nepal.
mediumwhich has been kept gagged. Indiacould in fact learn Sagarmatha itselfmeansMountEverestin Nepali,andcontinues
from the experimentsgoing on elsewhere in the globe and in to be on top of the worldfor its uniquebearingin the field of
the neighbourhood, to realise the worthof this potenttool. The communityradio.
Philippineshastakencommunityradioto new heights;even tiny In Bangladesh,it is arguedthat radiocould play a key role
Nepal has opened up its communitybroadcasting,lending a in harnessingICTsfordevelopment.AccordingtotheBangladesh
diversityto the voices heardon the airwavesof the Kathmandu CoastalNGOs Networkfor Radio and CommunicationTrust
Valley and beyond. (BCNNRC),this mediumgets step-motherlytreatmentbecause
Radiois seeing some positivechangesin southAsia. In 2002, (i) it is seen as old andoutfashionedandhenceis simplyignored
radiofiguredin the roundtable consultationof Bangladesh's (ii) rulingelites in southAsia seem afraidof the humbleradio's
WorldSummiton the InformationSociety. Held on Decem- potentialto build awarenessamongthe citizens of this region.
ber28, the meet looked at how the governmentcould address Inmid-2002,AHMBazlurRahmanof BCNNRC,saidtheywere
theissueof "integrating peopleof all walksof life"by facilitating workingon a draftpolicy advocacyplan on communityradio
affordableaccess to information.One statementemergingfrom in Bangladesh.1
this meet said: "Communitymedia requiresproperattention, Even countrieslike Afghanistancould find communityradio
formulatingof policiesandimplementation. Especially,commu- a 'viableoption',researcherssuggest.BruceGirardandJo van
nity broadcasting,e g, communityradio and communitytele- derSpeksaidthisin a recentlycompletedstudy,sponsoredby the
centre,canbe set up at rurallevels to ensureparticipationwhich Communication AssistanceFoundation.The studyexaminesthe
will ensureaccess to informationand thus build a knowledge potentialfor community-basedradioin strife-tornAfghanistan
society.Simultaneously, it facilitatesaccountablegovernanceby and identifiesexamplesof how communityradio can support
makingpeople participatein decision-makingprocess,at plan- initiativesfor communitydevelopment.Afghanistan,slightly
ning and managementlevel". smallerthanChilein landmass,has a populationof 22.5 million
Unusualexperimentshave takenradio'spotentialfurtherthan nearlyas large as Iraq.But intercinefightinghas wreckedthe
intended.Nepalwas connectedto theInternetin 1995.Yet, most land-lockedcountry'sinfrastructure since the early 1970s when
Nepaliscannotbenefitfrom this new mediumdue to high cost, the monarchywas ousted.
low availabilityandlackof exposure.It also requiresa minimum "Thereportand its recommendationsare primarilyintended
workingknowledgeof English. So, in the KathmanduValley as a resourcefor agencies and organisationsconsideringsup-
too, the 'Internet-radio' programmewas aimedto be an 'inter- portingradio,mediaor communicationactivitiesin the country,
face' between radio listeners and the Internet.According to whetherwithfundsor expertise,"saidGirard.The authorsof the
Nepal's Informationand CommunicationTechnologies(ICT) studypointout thatAfghanistanhas a 70 percent illiteracyrate
evangelist GaurabUpadhyay,in early March 2000, a senior (85 per cent amongwomen), a devastatedinfrastructure and a

2168Economic and PoliticalWeekly May 31, 2003

largelyruralpopulation. Someestimatessay85percentofthepopu- announcedthat it had set up a transmissionpoint at Sir M
lationlives in 37,000 villages. Barely4 per cent of households Vishweshwarrayya Hall,BangaloreUniversityandwouldtrans-
haveelectricityandeven in majorcities the telecommunications port the data all the way to the uplinkstationat Melbourne.It
infrastructure is virtuallynon-existent.OnlycitieslikeHerathave was broadcastlive on AsiaStarNorthWest beam andcould be
a modemfunctioninglandlinetelephonenetwork,completewith heardon the WorldSpacereceiversthroughoutIndia,according
publiccallbooths.Kabul'sGSMnetworkoffersirregularservice to WorldSpaceIndiacustomercare head N Prasad.
and its capacityis insufficientfor its 12,000 customers. Studentsof centreslike IITRourkeehave voiced theirinterest
The Internet,till recentlybannedby the Taliban,is still un- inknowingmoreonhowto setuplow-poweredFMradiostations.
available,except to UN agencies,NGOs and a few ministries. "FM(signals)are very weak in Rourkee.So we are trying(to
In sucha situation,as the reportnotes,the demandfor education set up a possible station).We workedupon it and we have the
farexceedsthe capacityto supplyit. In contrast,most Afghans fundsto do it. Butwe don'thavethetechnicalknowledge,"wrote
do have access to radioreceiversand are accustomedto using one studentfrom this institution.
radioas a sourceof news, information,educationandentertain- Ian Pringle, a volunteerof Canadianorigin who has been
ment. "Communityradio, understoodas radio which is com- promotingcommunityradioin southAsiafora considerabletime,
munity-based,independentand participatory,offers a low-cost points out that the Bangalore-basedVoices is a development
and effective way of contributingto medium and long-term communicationsorganisationworkingin print,radio,video and
effortsfor reconstruction, development,democracyandnation- new mediato supportparticipationin governanceanddevelop-
building,"say the authorsof this study.Accordingto them,the ment for underrepresented groups. Voices has been actively
report'smainconclusionis thatcommunityradiois not only a advocatingincreasedpublic and communityaccess to media,
viableoptionfor Afghanistan,it is also a low-costandeffective including communityradio.4 Recently, Voices sponsoredan
way of contributingto mediumandlong-termeffortsfor recon- email list for communitymedia in south Asia. "Theidea is to
struction,development,democracyandnation-building."Com- focus on southAsia andwhile the roots arein communityradio
munityradiocan be the missing link in a three-tieredpublic one objectiveis to widen the exchangeto includeothermedia
serviceradiosystemmadeupof national,regionalandlocalradio includingvideo, printand infotech.It evolved from a regional
stations,"it says."Sinceourreportonthepotentialforcommunity meetingheldin 2001 atKothmaleCommunityRadio(SriLanka)
radioin Afghanistanwas released(recently),a numberof people as did a web site:," says Pringle.
have writtenwith questions,comments,informationaboutde- Organisations likefarmradio.orgwebsiteofferinformationthat
velopmentsin Afghanistan,updatesabouttheirown activities, wouldbe of interestto ruralaudiences,in an easily translatable
and suggestionsfor follow-up,"said Girard.They've set up an format.It offers agriculturalinformationthatis of relevanceto
Internet-basedmailing list for those interestedin following the tropics,apartfromotherinformation.It is tryingto find out
developmentson an ongoing basis.2 how best it coulduse radioto meet the needs of ruralaudiences
in the thirdworld.It does so by sharinginformationin the form
Diverse Quarters of 'radioscripts'.Thesearefree-to-airin the languagethatthird
worldbroadcasters choose.Butthisgroupdoes thejob of putting
Interestin radiocomes fromunexpectedquarters.Comments togetherneatpackagesof well-researchedagriculturalinforma-
GrantGoddard, tion for radio from Canada.For instance,one recentdispatch
I haveworkedintheradioindustry formorethan20yearsinseveral includedtips for farmerson how to takeresponsibilityfor live-
countries,includingthe UK, Russia,Israel,Hungary,Germany, stock health;basic facts about 12 animaldiseases;the role of
theCzechRepublicandtheBalticStates.In 2000/2001I worked nativebreedsin maintaininglivestockhealth;the value of indi-
as a radioconsultantfor StarTV, basedin Bombayandhelped genous veterinarypractices;and relatedsubjects.5
createthefirstcommercial radiostationsinBangalore
andBombay Scripts are put out free of charge to Farm Radio Network
(CityFM).I amnowemployedin theDevelopmentDepartment partners.This comes along with a newsletterwith resourcesfor
of the RadioAuthority,the UK regulatorof commercialradio. additionalinformation,how to use the scripts,and information
I am interestedin communityradio,accessradioandthe use of forradiobroadcasters. Suchmaterialis distributedin printformat
radioin developmentwork. in English,Frenchand Spanish.Partnershipin the Networkis
Meanwhile,journalistShubhranshu Choudhary,in a letterto the free to anyonebroadcastingto ruralaudiencesin Africa,Asia
BBC on its Indiastrategy,told BBC WorldServicesheadMark and LatinAmerica.Undera 'membershipagreement'partners
Byford that he was "distressedafterknowing aboutthe latest agreeto completeand returnquestionnairesand surveys.They
BBC findings and directions"emerging from a recent news also undertaketo participatein the networkby sendingin ideas
report.3BBC says that latest researchdone by it shows that fornew scripts,programmes producedusingnetworkscripts,and
only one in four personslistens to radio in India. Choudhary examplesor photographsshowinghow farmersuse ideas from
argued, the script.Eachof the scriptis contributedby a researcherand
If halfof Indiansdo nothaveanyelectricitythenwe can safely is reviewedby a relevantspecialist.Informationsourcesarealso
assumethatthey arenot watchingany TV either.I wouldlike offeredin each case. 'Notes to broadcasters',which areput out
to know,how you couldconcludethatFM is the solution?FM along with the scriptsometimes,help guide the broadcasterto
will havea limited[urban]reachandthis is not the areawhere make optimumuse of the material.
majority of IndiansliveandBBC's radioaudiencehasalwaysbeen Inearly2002, over40 participants joineda three-dayworkshop
in the smalltownsandruralareas. on 'CommunityRadio in South Asia'. The conference was
InJanuary2003,WorldSpace-theinternational satellitebroad- attendedby delegates from Bangladesh,India, Pakistan,Sri
caster- announcedplansfor a five-daylive coverageof the90th Lankaandwhole host of delegatesfromNepal.The conference
Indian Science Congress held in Bangalore. WorldSpace wasalsoattended byregionalcommunications adviserof UNESCO

Economicand PoliticalWeekly May 31, 2003 2169

Wijeyananda Jayaweera, regional director of Panos SE Asia to obtaina licencethatculminatedin RadioSagarmatha becom-
Saneeya Hussain, and the secretaries of I and B/communications ing the first independentnon-profitradiostationin southAsia.
ministries of Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh. This long and uncertaincampaigninvolved the formationof a
Organisers said this was a 'rare opportunity' for practitioners, coalitionof alliancesacross media organisations,donors,and
and supporters of community radio to hear station managers NGOs with strongsupportfrom the printmedia.
"talk about ground level experiences of running community Participants felt thatin the southAsiancontext,advocacyand
stations and developing community linkages". Different models campaigningfor communityradiotakeplacewithina 'develop-
were suggested for ownership and management of community mentalparadigm'as opposedto a strictly 'human-rightspara-
radio, based on ground level initiatives particularly in Nepal. digm'.A concludingnoteputtogetherbyBandanaMukhopadhyay,
Community radio in Nepal exists in three different structures - VinodPavarala,Ashish Sen and SubbuVincentarguedthatthe
the cooperative model, the village development committee conferencehas takenplace at a very crucialtime,"becauseboth
(the local government) model and the NGO model (see box Pakistanand Indiangovernmentsare actively consideringan-
for details). nouncinga policy on communityradio".
One session focused on experiments in Sri Lanka's Radio
Kothmale.This station's idea of combining radio with the Internet India's Plans
- in what is termed 'radio browsing' - has drawn wide attention.
KCR station manager, Sunil Wijeyasinghe, stressed that in order Afteryearsof campaigning,and a strongly-wordedSupreme
to sustain a community radio station and make it relevant, it must Courtjudgmentdirectingthe opening up of the airwaves,the
motivate as well as provide tangible benefits to individuals in governmentof Indiahas responded.But only very slowly. In-
the community. It might be of interest to note that, strictly formationand broadcastingministerSushmaSwarajcame out
speaking, there are no community-owned radio stations in Sri - in mid-December2002 - withbaredetailsof a policyto permit
Lanka. All community participatory radio stations currently in all educationalinstitutionsto have their own FM channelsat
operation are owned by the state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting lower frequencylevels. Respondingto supplementaries during
Corporation. the QuestionHourin RajyaSabha,she said all IndianInstitutes
India's delegation found to their surprise that in Nepal there of Management(IIMs),IndianInstitutesof Technology(IITs)
is currently no distinction between community and commercial andresidentialschoolswouldbe given suchpermission.In mid-
radio so far as the charging of licence fees goes. The Nepali January2003, the ministerclaimedthatsome '1,000 radiosta-
delegation elaboratedabouttheirfive-year long sustained struggle tions' wouldbe set up this yearin the IITs,IIMsandresidential

Since the opening up of the airwavesin Nepal in 1995, the total numberof FMlicences issued in the countryhas gone up to 25 and about 90 per cent
of them are alreadyoperational. Six of these are communityFM radiobroadcasters.
The pioneeringRadio Sagarmathaas well as SwargadwariFMare owned and operatedby NGOs, Radio Madanpokharaby the VillageDevelopment
Committee,MetroFMby municipality,LumbiniFMand HimchuliFMby cooperatives. Nepal has, thus, demonstratedthe viabilityand sustainabilityof
multiplemodels of communityradiothrivingin the same socio-politicalmilieu.
Model 1: Cooperative Model
About100shareholderscontributedabout20,000 rupeeseach to set upthe stationin 1998.Thestationis owned,managedandoperatedbythiscooperative.
There are also 600 friendsof Radio Lumbinieach paying 100 rupees annually.The station receives additionalfundingfrom71 VillageDevelopment
Committees(lowestlevel of local government)in the area. A combinationof paidstaffand volunteersmake the programmes.Withinfrastructural
fromDANIDA and UNESCO,the stationbroadcastsfor 12 hoursa day. The schedule includesfourlocalnews bulletinsa day and a rangeof programmes
on health,agriculture,gender equality,children'seducationand good governance.
Model 2: Local Administration
Example:Madanpokhara, Palpa district
Initiallyfundedby UNESCO,the station is owned by the VillageDevelopmentCommittee.The station went on air in April2000 withthe supportof a
trustfundconstitutedby 65 members,each of whompaid 1000 rupees. Ithas also collected400,000 rupees to builda radiostation,while runningcosts
are met throughdonationsfromthe VDCand fromTansen-PalpaDistrictDevelopmentCommittee,as well as throughadvertising,sponsorshipand entry
fees to the station. Witha 100-watttransmitter,a potentialaudience of 400,000 people can hear the station in Palpa and seven surroundingdistricts.
The stationhas been playingan active role in development,withprogrammesto improvefarmingand forestryand the environment,as well as working
to eliminatesocial discrimination,
injustice,and superstition. RadioMadanpokhara has enhanced the self-respectand identityof ruralpeople in Nepal.
Model 3: NGO
Example:Radio Sagarmatha,KathmanduValley
Ownedand managed by NEFEJ(the Nepal Forumof Environmental Journalists,this stationwas startedwiththe supportof UNESCOand has been
a source of inspirationto the communityradiomovementin south Asia. Describedas an independentpublicinterestradiostation, 60 per cent of its
fundscome fromdonors,30 per cent from'strategic'advertisingand 10 per cent fromothersources. Ithas a paidstaff of about30 and manyvolunteers.
Since it startedbroadcastingin 1997, Radio Sagarmathaassumed the mandateof coveringand discussing issues of publicsignificance.It providesa
forumto discuss local ideas and culture,and is activelyinvolvedin social change. Italso broadcastsprogrammesin minoritylanguages and on folkand
contemporarymusic as well as programmesfor women, children,and semi-urbanlisteners. Committedto promotingcommunitybroadcastingin other
partsof Nepal, Radio Sagarmathaand its pioneers have lent strong supportfor similareffortselsewhere in the country.

[Sources: Panos South Asia (,Radio Sagarmatha,and lan Pringle]

2170 Economicand PoliticalWeekly May 31, 2003

schools.Swarajaskedradioengineersacrossthecountryto make Pradesh,which was intendedto be used for the government's
the schemepossiblein orderto ushera nationwiderevolution, povertyalleviationprogrammes,was shut down by the central
the Indo-AsianNews Service reported. governmentafterbeing on the air for about four months.
This reportaddedthat the programmesmust have localised In July 2002, the Indonesiangovernmentwas criticisedfor
content,focusing on communitydevelopment,educationand havingsoughtto scrapprovisionsin supportof communityradio
environment.Thereis no ban on religiousprogrammesunder inaproposedbroadcasting billbeforethelegislature.Thisfollowed
the headof social and culturalcontent,thoughthe government commentsby stateministerfor communicationand information
has warnedagainstmisuse. It furtheradded that the service, SyamsulMuarifthatcommunitybroadcasting canprovokeracial,
accordingto the ministry,wouldprovidea platformfor students ethnic, and religious conflict. Hundredsof communityradio
andteachersto give vent to theircreativeenergyby producing stationshavebroadcastillegallyin Indonesia,as the government
culturalandinteractiveprogrammes.It would also liven up the refuses to grantthem broadcastlicences. Under Article 18 of
academicenvironment,said officials. Since then, the MIB has the new broadcastingbill, whichwas debatedfor over two years
announcedpolicyguidelinesforissuingof licencesto established in the national legislature, the governmentwould officially
educationalinstitutions.Amidstall the confusiongeneratedby recognise and supportcommunitybroadcasting.
theseguidelines,by April2003 only threeinstitutionswere said An articlein the JakartaPost by Arya Gunawan,the com-
tohavesentapplications,whichtheministryreturnedontechnical municationcoordinatorfor UNESCO Indonesia, stated that
grounds. ministerSyamsul'sview echoes the old thinkingof Suharto's
Butmanyfearthe powerof radio.In December-end2002, an New Order,which prioritisednationalsecurityover personal
unusualrow brokeup in Sri Lanka.The island nationadmits freedoms.Gunawanarguedthat none of the racial, ethnic or
shippingradioequipmentto rebels. Reutersreportedthat Sri religiousconflicts in the countryhave ever had anythingto do
Lankaissueda broadcastinglicence andtransmitting equipment with communitybroadcasting.Gunawandefineda community
toTamilTigerrebels,sayingthetransfer was intendedto strengthen broadcastinginstitutionas a mediaoutletthatdoesnotseekprofit,
the peace processto end nearlytwo decadesof civil war. The is owned and run by a local communitythroughfoundations,
admissionendsweeks of speculationover how the radioequip- organisations,or cooperativemovements,andprovidesa service
mentendedupwiththeLiberationTigersof TamilEelam(LTTE), for a limited, usually homogenous community.Contraryto
whohaveforyearsbroadcastovertheclandestineVoice of Tigers Syamsul'sview, by focusingon a morelocalcontext,community
radio."Itwill be clearthatthe grantof the licence to the LTTE radiohas provedeffective in reducingor eliminatingpotential
PeaceSecretariatbrings,for the first time, such radiotransmis- conflicts by educatingthe public on how to overcomeconflict
sionsby theLTTEunderthe laws of SriLanka,"the government in democraticmannersthroughdebates,arguments,and nego-
said in a statement.The opposition had accused Norway of tiations,Gunawanwrote.
oversteppingits roleas mediatorin the peaceprocessby import- In the Community Radio Handbook published by UNESCO
ing the equipmentand handingit over to the Tigers. But the in 2001, Colin Fraserand Sonia RestrepoEstradahave argued
statementsaid it was the governmentwhich had agreedto the that communitybroadcastinggives a voice to the voiceless,
rebels'requestto bringin the goods and only enlistedthe help enablinglocal communitiesto feel that attentionis being paid
of Norwayto resolvea disputeover whetherthe Tigersshould to their concernsand that their rights are being respected.
be chargedduty on the shipment.The governmentsaid the Nonetheless,Asia Times Online of Hong Kong reportedon
equipment"representsan importantstep in the transformation November28, 2002 thatthis continent'scommunitymediahas
of the LTTEinto a politicalgroupingwithinthe mainstreamof had to 'struggleto be heard'.7WriterMarwaanMacan-Markar
the Sri Lankanpoliticalsystem".It addedthe goods had been reportedon how Satien Chantorn,a fruit farmer,has become
examinedbymilitaryofficialsandwouldposenosecuritythreat.6 the symbol of defiance of an informationrevolutionthat is
In May2002, reportsin the Mumbaimediaclaimedthat'anti- graduallyspreadingacrossThailand.Inmid-November, thepolice
national' broadcasts were being undertaken 'from a very wereorderedto arrestSatien,52, for a programmehe broadcast
powerfultransmitter'(cited by VickramCrishna,cr-indialist). froma communityradiostationin Ang Thon province,central
ButCrisnapointedout that"thebody of the articlerevealedthat Thailand.Earlier,the local police had seized the radiostation's
whatthepoliceactuallyfoundwas 'vulgar'music".Laterreports transmitter.
howeverconfirmedtheratherinnocuous- evenif in questionable In Thailand,communitiescannotset up such stationsandtake
taste- contentthatthe stationswere deliveringto listenersin to the airwaves because parliamenthas not yet passed laws
theirvicinity. overturningfeudalarrangements thatgive governmentauthori-
FromKendrapara on May 19, 2002, the PressTrustof India ties controloverthem.This is despitethe 1997 constitutionthat
reportedthatpolice had detected'clandestinebroadcasts'from recognisesa communitysector- separatefromthe government
two low-poweredtransmittersin Orissa'scoastalbelt, and had andcommercialones. But a clamourof supportfor Satienfrom
come to know of five more such 'unauthorisedradio stations' some academicsand media reformactivists has given him a
functioningin theregion.Policewerequotedas havingidentified reprieve."Significantbackinghas come fromthe over 150 local
Banipal,JambuandBatigharvillages in Kendrapara districtand communitieswho for abouta yearnow have turnedaway from
Harishpur andKainthakola nearDhamrain Bhadrakdistrictfrom the diet of informationserved by the mainstreammediato set
whereprogrammesin Oriyaand Bengali were being broadcast up theirown radiostations.The first such stationto go on air
withina radiusof five to 10 km. "The sources,however,said was in Kanchanaburi, in westernThailand,in December2001",
thatinquiriesconductedso far hadrevealedthatthe contentsof reportedthe paper."Communityradiostationsandotherforms
the broadcasts,thoughillegal, did not containany anti-national of communitymediaare still at a pilot stage and are struggling
material",PTIreported.Similarly,theWorldBank-funded'Mana to assertthemselvesin Asia,"PradipThomas,editorof Media
Radio'(OurRadio)experimentin the Kurnooldistrictof Andhra Development,a quarterly journalpublishedby theLondon-based

Economicand PoliticalWeekly May 31, 2003 2171

World Association for ChristianCommunicationwas quoted radio stations. But the need for 'democratic communication' saw
as saying. the UNESCO supportover 20 private radio stations, and to 'spark
a process of networking with the help of new technologies'.
Across the Globe Computers and Internet-access enables the stations to exchange
news on a daily basis. In spite of threatsby the army, the network
Elsewherein theglobe,radiois makingits impactfelt. George continues to grow, notes the report.
Lessard,a veterancampaignerfor radioandone-timevolunteer More commonly, community radio stations have been set up
workerinOrissa,India,pointsoutto experimentswith'aboriginal with help from local or international NGOs. It is less common,
radio'. Radio stationCFIE 106.5 FM recentlysent out a note notes the report, to find radio stations established by government
'callingall aboriginalmusicians'.ItnotedthatAboriginalVoices institutions to serve the community. "WhatThomas Sankaradid
Radio(AVR)has been testingon CFIE106.5 FM in downtown during the early 1980s in Burkina Faso has not been replicated
Toronto."Withinthenextyear,theAVRRadioNetworkwill have by other African governments, who have been too jealous to
repeaterstationsin Vancouver,Calgaryand Ottawa..that'sap- release their tight control over the media", says the study. It notes,
proximately10 million Canadianswho will now have an Ab- however, that the government of Mexico does have a policy of
originalRadiostationon theirdial! Wouldyou like yourmusic promoting community radio, in particular within indigenous
heardbymillionsofpeople?",it asked.Itsaiditwouldencourageall communities. The official Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI)
independent, signedandemergingaboriginal talentto sendin music has established some 24 indigenous radio stations. These stations
tobepartof theAboriginalVoices RadioNetworkmusiclibrary.8 produce and air programmes in 31 local languages and Spanish,
TitledMakingWaves,a 352-pagereportrecentlyfocused on and reach an estimated six million indigenous Mexicans.
howradiostationsacrosstheglobearemakinga difference,often One study cites Kothmale Radio in Sri Lanka and Radio
to those who lack other means of communication.Twenty Kiritimati in the Kiribati archipelago (South Pacific) as "ex-
experiencesof unusualradiostationsfrom acrossthe globe are amples of community radio stations that were established and
studied,whileintwocasesradiohasbeenlinkedwiththeInternet, partly funded by the government, with little political interfer-
to widenits reach."Today,any small countryin LatinAmerica ence."9 Louie Tabing, the founder of the Tambuli Radio Project
cancountby hundredsthe stations,most of themFM, thatserve in the Philippines, and the subsequent Tambuli Foundation,
ruralor urbancommunitieswith contentthat is appropriateto commented in 2002:
the local language,cultureand needs,"commentsthe reportby The sustainabilityof the [TambuliRadio]projectis a seriousmatter
AlfonsoGumucioDagron,who spentnearlya yearresearching and some did not believe thatit was sustainable.They were telling
andinterviewing.This reportwas puttogetherfor the US-based us thatthis 'volunteerism'has its limits, for instance.And- "Well,
RockefellerFoundation.It suggests that Asia and Africa "are you say thatthey are volunteeringnow...afterone year, aftertwo,
certainlyundergoingthe same processthatLatinAmericalived they will go." And true enough, there are people who go after
throughdecadesago".Asia providesimportantexamplesin the two years.And some people areeven askingfor pay. But thereality
is thatno communitywherewe putup a radiostationsince the early
Philippines,Sri Lankaand Nepal, says the study.
Some interestingcase studies come in from Asia itself - 1990s is willing to give up their radio station. They are working
there for as long as the transmitteris operating- for as long as
includinginnovativeexamples like the Kothmalecommunity thereis a radiostation.So I have proventhemwrongwithrespectto
radio from Sri Lanka, and Radio Sagarmathaof Nepal and
volunteerism.Being in radiocarriessomethinglike maybea sense
CommunityAudioTowersfromthe Philippines.Philippineshas of power, a sense of fulfilment, a sense thatyou arepopularin the
over some 328 AM and 317 FM radiostations.Inspiteof this,
community,you areimportantto the community.You areserving.
theCommunityAudioTowersseeksto offer'realaccessto media Every day there is a feeling among the individualvolunteersthat
by communities'.It adds that communityradio stationshave they are importantto a larger group of people.10?[1
'multipliedby the thousands'all over the worldin the pastfive
decades.Infact,it is almostimpossibleto even calculatethereal Address for correspondence:
numbers,as statisticsdonotincludethemanythatoperatewithout
a legal licence. This reporthighlightsthe unusualrole played
by radio in developmentin other areasacross the globe too - Notes
fromColombia,Bolivia,El Salvador,BurkinaFaso,Haiti,Mada- 1 Contact at:
gascar,Tanzaniaand elsewhere. 2 More details are available from
One unique example in networkingis the Tambuli radio Subscriptionto the mailing list can be done through
experimentin the Philippines.Some20 stationswereset up with 3 mailmanllistinfo/
See interview in The Times of India, December 2, 2002 Rashmee Z
help from UNESCO and DANIDA, the Danish international Ahmed about 70 years of BBC and its India strategy.
developmentagency. Networking for Tambuli included the 4 Voices can be contactedat and their web site is http://
exchangeof cassettes,training,meetingsandoverallmonitoring contactedat
fromtheTambuliFoundationin Manila.Tambuli'sradiostations 5 Such scriptsareregularlyavailableat
are so spreadout in the 'most remoteplaces' of the island,that published_scripts.html
6 See
no real-timenetworkingis possible. They can't get in touch 7 See
throughtheirlow-poweredtransmitters. But even if Tambuliis 8 For moredetails,contactElaineBomberry,Directorof AboriginalTalent
not a networktechnically,philosophicallyall the stationsshare Development at or http://
the same objectives and ideas.
Indonesia'sLocal RadioNetwork,says the report,shows that 9 Making Waves: Stories of Participatory Communicationfor Social
Change. A Report to the Rockefeller Foundation.By Alfonso Gumicio
radio networkingis possible even when the stations are all Dagron, 2001, New York.
privatelyowned.In thiscountry,no law providesfor community 10 See

2172 Economicand PoliticalWeekly May 31, 2003