By Arpita Sharma:
In India, where literacy remains a substantial barrier to development, radio especially community radio, can reach a large number of poor people because it is affordable and uses little electricity which is low supply in many countries and barely affordable for many poor. In 2000, AIR programmes could be heard in two-third of all Indian households in 24 languages and 146 dialects, over some 120 million radio sets. Community Radio gives a voice to the community they serve with programmes in local languages, respecting local culture, traditions and interests. And it facilitates dialogue within the community; while on a national level it encourages diversity, creativity and citizens’ participation in democratic processes. Community Radio provides a counterbalance to the increasing globalization and commercialization of media. Most TV and radio stations, including public stations, are concentrated in urban areas.
In the more remote, rural areas, Community Radio stations are often the only media available, where they are listened to by large parts of the population. Community Radio stations fill the gap left by national and commercial media, and reach local audiences the national media ignore. They fulfill the role of public broadcaster, informing the public at a local level, and representing their views. In this way, they give a voice to the voiceless, enabling people to speak and make their opinions, grievances and ideas known to those who have the power to make decisions.
Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting content that is popular to a local audience but which may often be overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters. (UNESCO 2002)
Concept of Community radio
Community radio is confined to a small geographical area. It depends on low power transmission covering not more than 20-30 km. radius. It serves a community which uses common resources for livelihood, has common development issues and concerns, which are relatively localized, nevertheless connected to national and regional development goals.
Community radio is a vibrant community broadcasting system to enhance pluralism and diversity. It is a truly people’s radio that perceives listeners not only as receivers and consumers, but also as active citizens and creative producers of media content. This form of radio is fully consistent with the letter and spirit of the Milan Declaration on Communications media have a responsibility to help sustain the diversity of the World’s cultures and languages and that they should be supported through legislative, administrative and financial measures. Community radio is distinguished by three essential principles. Non profit making, community ownership and management and community participation. Community radio is also characteristics by its limited local reach, low power transmission and programming content that reflects the educational developmental and socio-cultural needs of the specific community it serves. For the purpose of community radio, a community is defined as a non-sectarian group of individuals who are traditionally bound and share a common socio-economic and cultural interest.
Community Radio and Internet
The internet holds potential for development, especially in rural areas. For example, information about health, agriculture or the environment can be downloaded from it, it can be used to connect health workers, agricultural extension workers or ordinary village, with technical experts to discuss some particular problem and it can be use to put communities in contact with each other for online discussions and debates about issues that effects them.
The village and the Information superhighway
In most developing countries internet access is limited to privilege few. For eg in Africa less than 2 per cent population have internet access and no where are the rural poor part of the privileged internet using minority. How can poor rural people living alone in the village be concerned to the information superhighway?
Integrating radio programming with the internet is one way to reach out to villagers. If the radio station has a computer with internet access, programme producers can use in enormous spectrum of information on subjects of general concern of the audience. Broadcasting such information can bring internet to all the homes.
The Internet and the Programme Production
Through the internet, radio station can obtain a lot quality and range of information from development agencies, NGOs, universities and like more radio programmes can be downloaded from the internet for radio broadcast. The internet is also forum for exchange of programmes. A community radio may also go to offer information about itself to other internet users. It can open a site on the World Wide Web to describe from analogue to digital in moving fast.
Rural Multipurpose Telecenters:
The centers are also called as “Rural Information Shops”. The basic principle is to create a place were villagers can go for information either free or for a price. A community radio station can function like a rural telecentres providing a variety of services. In that case it can provide public service telephone, fax, Video/ CD/ Books/library. it can also sell records, cassettes, higher out video and audio equipments and extend photo copying facilities. In Bangladesh, Gramin Bank Started Gramin Centre in 1996. It provides loan for establishment of teleservices centers, it has been very successful.
Community radio for Agricultural development
Agriculture has always been a highly knowledge-intensive sector requiring continuous information flow. Farmers’ quest for authentic, credible and usable information both from established systems and traditional practices is ever increasing in this fluctuating global environment, to operate efficiently and compete economically. The rapid changes happening around with WTO/globalization, uncontrolled urbanization, uncertainty in climate change, discerning consumer segment and continued farm crisis emphasize the importance of timely, appropriate and need based information and knowledge to meet myriad developmental challenges.
Effective extension, education and communication services are probably some of the key strategies for sustaining agricultural growth, strengthening food security and combating hunger and malnutrition. However, diverse socio-cultural backgrounds, linguistic barriers, geographical remoteness and differential incentives make the task of information dissemination challenging.
Agricultural extension is the vehicle or system for delivering useful information to farmers and assisting those farmers to develop requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to make use of this information or technology effectively. In recent times advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are revolutionizing agriculture extension by offering various technological options such as television, internet, mobile, telephony etc.
Since independence, India has implemented many extension programs for agriculture and rural development. Agriculture being a state subject, there is a long list of multi-sectors as well as single sector extension models and approaches that were tried, one after another and often in overlapping manner, in the public domain. Despite being well-intentioned and comprehensively designed, these efforts have been often criticized for their poor performance as they all fell well short of set objectives.
Among the three main categories of mass communication tools for agricultural extension such as radio, television and print media, the importance of radio for agricultural extension cannot be denied.
Radio is a powerful communication tool. India’s post-independence experiments with ICT use in agricultural development started with radio. A network of All India Radio (AIR) stations were established across the country that broadcast agricultural programmes in regional languages. AIR (now Prasar Bharathi) has been playing a significant role since many years – bringing new technological information on agriculture and other allied subjects to the farmers. With the recent liberalization of the broadcasting licensing policy, Community Radio has received a new impetus in India. This form of participatory communication has proved to be very successful as a tool for social and economic development at grass root level. The local community needs which are often neglected by the mainstream media could be adequately addressed by community radio. Even farmer to farmer extension can be easily made possible through adequate capacity building as the HAM radio experience underway in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh shows.
Experience with rural radio has shown the potential for agricultural extension to benefit from both the reach and the relevance that local broadcasting can achieve through participatory communication approaches. Extension workers use radio for communicating information on new methods & techniques, giving timely information about the control of crop pests & diseases, weather, market news, etc. For this purpose, talks, group discussions, folksongs, dialogues & dramas are usually organised.
Radio initiatives as part of broader communication for development strategies have been used by various international agencies like UNESCO, UNICEF and FAO of the United Nations since 1960’s. The FAO developed the Strategic Extension Campaign (SEC) methodology in many countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America in order to support the local extension workers. For example the campaign in Malaysia, in collaboration with FAO’s Inter Country Programme on Integrated Pest Management in Rice, radio was used to discourage the use of a particular chemical, Zinc Phosphide, in preference to a safer alternative. The follow up evaluation showed impressive results as number of farmers dropping use of Zinc Phosphide fell by 52%. Various services like market information, market standards, certification, post harvest technologies etc. besides production specific knowledge are critical for farmers. In this era of globalisation, radio can prove to a cost effective and reliable ICT with manifold advantages.
There is an interesting combination of approaches in the use of rural radio for agriculture extension. They are locally focussed, using indigenous knowledge to build on local cultural and agro-ecological diversity, blending with technology and scientific innovation. Also a two way communication of sharing farmers experience can be an interesting adaptation. Historically agriculture extension has often failed to communicate technical information to farmers in a way that has enabled it to be adopted locally. Thus the combinations of approaches strike an effective balance between indigenous and scientific approaches to agricultural development.
The experience of agricultural extension at Simli Radio has shown that the most popular programmes are those that can provide farmers with a direct income-earning opportunity. This frequently involves discussion and training on topics that help to combine growing traditional crops with a supplementary activity that does not require high levels of investment or risk in terms of ceasing existing activities. Specific examples of popular programmes have been on bee-keeping, rearing grass-cutters and giant snail production especially for sale to customers in the south of the country. These additional extension programmes are most popular during the dry season when farmers have the time to consider alternative strategies. During the cropping season specific advice is referred on the full range of crops being grown locally, timed to coincide with the various stages of land preparation, planting, weeding, water management, harvesting and marketing.
However using radio for agriculture extension is just one dimension, as rural radio can serve multiple roles of extending socio-economic development in rural areas such as health, nutrition, sanitation etc.
CHALLENGES TO COMMUNITY RADIO
Community Radio plays a central role in community development. To play this role they need to provide quality programmes to ensure continued audience, and support from the community. It has been a great success in developed nations but has lacked in developing countries because of illiteracy and lack of awareness among people. Community radio faces the challenges in effective and quality programme production in terms of content, production quality and community involvement:
Among the various challenges faced by the community radio, the participation from the people is the major one and no community radio can survive without participation of people as it demands 70% participation of the community people.
To ensure people participation essentially the leaders of the community: which include the elected and the religious authorities as well as the informal but also influential opinion leaders must be part of consultation process. But equally important is a consultation process that involves the community at large. Group discussions with various sectors in the community like farmers, fisherman, shop-owners, teachers, artisans, etc. are essential. It is also crucial to consult women and youth, who are traditionally marginalized in many rural societies. FGDs could be conducted to know about the prevailing situation and their opinion regarding it. Nor should any minority, cultural and linguistic group be left out. The points to be ascertained are to know about the listener’s need, listener’s preference and their listening habit. The staff should provide people with technical support and facilities to produce the programme. With the programmes of entertainment and local culture, they should also provide a platform to discuss relevant issues and village concerns in public, with local leaders called on to make respond and make their opinions and position clear. The programme recorded should be broadcasted next day if possible or as soon as possible this motivates the people to participate more and more. Also when the programmes are evaluated opinion of the community should be taken regarding their likings and disliking of the programmes and programme format, further their suggestions regarding programme implemented should be considered and implemented.
Delhi University Community Radio Station
Establishment of Delhi Community radio station
DUCR 90.4 MHZ established in 2007, is a Community Radio Station at School of Open Learning, University of Delhi. It was inaugurated by Sh. Kapil Sibal, Honorable Minister of Science & Technology and Minister of Earth Sciences, Government of India on 2 October, 2007. Prof. Deepak Pental, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi congratulated to the students and the community on this auspicious occasion. Prof Pental emphasized that the larger participation of faculty and students will strengthen the DUCR and make it popular among the community residing in and round Delhi University. Vijaylakshmi Sinha, former Deputy Director-General of All India Radio is supervising the project.
Objectives of DUCRS
The studio for the station has been set up at the School of Open Learning on the North Campus covering areas in and around the University. With a 10-15 km radius, DU 90.4 FM will broadcast community-related programmes as well as those dealing with students’ issues. The DU 90.4 FM will combine education and information and help in reaching out to people. The University has provided INR 25 lakh for the equipment and other requirements. The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia is providing technical and programming support to the DU 90.4 FM. Initially the radio will be operational from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. in the morning and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the evening. The duration will later be increased to eight hours a day.
In 2008, the University started using the station for disseminating information about the admission process, through live phone-in programs with students and parents. The programmes of DCUR 90.4 are available on IIMC Apna Radio 96.9 to enable the students and other community members residing at South Delhi to listen the programme. It has increased the range of DUCR 90.4. The DUCR 90.4 is also available on the website of School of Open Learning, University of Delhi- school of open learning helping all the stakeholders to listen the radio programme as per their convenience.
The main thrust areas of DUCR 90.4 is to broadcast student centric community based programmes such as:
Steps of Participatory Message Designing
Arpita Sharma is Ph.D. Scholar in the Dept. of Agricultural Communication of G. B. Pant University at Pantnagar. She obtained her M.Sc. from the same University. Her research interests focus on media effects and media communication. She has published review papers and research papers in the Journal of Communication Studies, Communication Today and various other journals related to communication and rural development. She had got the Assistance- ship during M.Sc. and Fellowship in Ph.D. She has presented papers in National and International seminars.