Voluntary groups explore community radio
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Voluntary groups explore community radio

Friday, 19 January 2007, 06:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: Just months after India opened up non-commercial community radio broadcasting, voluntary groups are exploring models to use the power of communication for community development.

In November, the government announced a policy that allows community and civil society groups to own and operate low power radio stations.

Radio broadcasting in India had long been a government monopoly. It was only in the 1990s that private parties were allowed to 'buy' slots of FM (frequency modulated) time and undertake broadcasts. Subsequently private players were allowed to set up their own stations.

In recent years, the government also opened up campus radio broadcasting, giving the green signal to universities and institutions of higher learning in different parts of the country.

Now it is the turn of developmental organizations. Most of them are, however, new to the medium.

Searching for tips on how to enter this space, potential broadcasters have sought information via networks such as the communityradionetwork.org website, which offers some details.

Newcomers can also take a look at the existing ventures.

Currently, there are four active community radio initiatives in India: 'Chala Ho Gaon Mein in Palamau' (Jharkhand), 'Kunjal Panchhi Kutch Ji in Kutch' (Gujarat), 'Namma Dhwani' (Budikote, Karnataka) and 'Deccan Development Society' initiative (Pastapur, Andhra Pradesh).

These communities produce radio programs and cablecast (distribute via cable TV networks), narrow cast (share programs via cassettes) or buy time from local radio stations of government-funded All India Radio (AIR).

Two community groups in Uttaranchal - 'Heval Vaani' in Chamba and 'Mandakini ki Awaaz' in Bhanaj - have been producing and disseminating local content through narrow casting and cable casting and via satellite.

Experts on the UN-run Solutions Exchange (solutionexchange-un.net.in) say that setting up a community radio station is not very expensive and would not cost more than 1 million for those seeking to broadcast in a radius of 25 km.

Lakshmi M. Tikoo of funding agency Aga Khan Foundation (India) and Ashish Sen of non-profit development communications organization VOICES in Bangalore, which have been promoting community radio, argue that the "power of radio" as a communication tool for rural communities needed to be explored further.

To scale up interest in community radio, a number of government and non-government initiatives have made available online information relating to Indian policies, technology options and even the circuits diagrams for building ultra-low powered transmitters for a few hundred rupees.

Those wishing to launch a community radio network can also benefit from the Broadcast Engineering Society (BES) Expo, to be held in New Delhi Feb 1-3, where Unesco will exhibit some low-cost broadcast options.

BES Expo in its 13th edition will host a conference and exhibition on terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. Last year, some 300 companies from 25 countries took part in the event.
Source: IANS
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