India Plans a National Community Radio Fund

Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Smt. Ambika Soni said, the Ministry will consider setting up of “Community Radio Fund”. This would be based on the model followed in several countries where the setting up of such a fund has been a success. For this purpose, the issue would be taken up on high priority with the key agencies such as the Planning Commission and concerned ministries. The setting up of such a fund would ensure the sustainability and enhanced outreach of the Community Radio Movement within the country. The modalities would be completed within a stipulated time frame. Smt. Soni stated this while inaugurating the first National Community Radio Sammelan for operational Community Radio Stations in India here today. 

Speaking on the occasion, the minister added that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting would also prepare a proposal whereby a certain portion of infrastructural costs of setting up of Community Radio stations within constituencies of MPs could be met from the MPLADS Scheme. The suggestion was mooted in view of the enhanced allocation within the scheme recently. Once the proposal was examined and prepared, Smt.Soni said that the concerned ministry i.e. Ministry of Programme Implementation would be approached to examine the merits of the case. At the same time, Hon’ble MPs would also be sensitized on the merits of setting up such institutions within their respective constituencies. Such a move would enable quality information to be given in a form, content, dialect and language which the people understood. 

Regarding financial sustainability, the minister said that in order to facilitate this aspect, not only guidelines for empanelment of Community Radio Stations with DAVP had been approved, efforts were also being made to increase the advertisement rates which were abysmally low at the moment. For this purpose, a committee had been set up under the Economic Advisor of the Ministry to fast track the proposal on priority. This would enable the operational radio stations to generate revenue from advertisements. The minister called upon the participating agencies to generate maximum revenue from advertisements and assured the support of DAVP in streamlining advertisements to this medium. 

Speaking on the potential of the medium, Smt. Soni said the pro active functioning ensured quality information on flagship schemes of the government to the people. Similarly, it would also make the local community conscious of their rights and entitlement. As a medium of communication, it would engage the local communities with empowering information thereby leading to national integration, pride and identity. The goal of each community radio station was to promote self esteem not only within the community but each individual. As part of the outreach process, the ministry had undertaken a roadmap to create an awareness generation programme. The Minister added that since 2007, 28 state level workshops had been organized. The result had been quite positive as in the last one year 216 new applications had been received. In view of the success, the process would be taken further. 

The poster exhibition inaugurated by Smt. Soni profiles the operational proficiency of the functional community radio stations in the country. It also profiled the Broadcast content of each radio station, the capital and sustenance profile and listed the success stories of each participating institution. Approximately 68 functional radio stations are participating in the exhibition. As part of the Sammelan, the minister presented four awards on the following issues: Thematic Award was given to Rudi No Radio- community radio operated by SEWA, Ahmedabad, SEWA was also awarded the prize in community engagement, Bundelkhand Radio operated by Development Alternatives won the award for promoting local culture and Radio active the community radio operated by Jain University, Bangaluru won the award of sustainability business model. A map of functional community radio stations was also released by Smt.Soni on the occasion. 

In three days deliberations discussions would be held on issues concerning Policy changes in the existing Community Radio Guidelines, quality of content being broadcast from the Community Radio Stations, strategies to engage community in programme production, funding and sustainability, encouraging and popularizing local cultural talent etc. A Poster Exhibition has also been organized on the sidelines of the Sammelan. 

The consultation will bring together community broadcasters and other key stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations, media activists, academia and the policy makers to take stock of the achievements of this burgeoning sector of radio broadcasting in India, and explore ways to take this movement to the next level. 

The consultation seeks to analyse, assess the current Community Radio Policy in achieving the goals of disseminating information, strengthening grass-root democracy and fulfilling social development objectives and discuss issues of financial & social sustainability of Community Radio Stations. The discussions will help design joint action strategies and define the role of organizations such as UNESCO, CRF, CEMCA, various Government Departments and other partners in strengthening the CR movement. 

The outcome from the consultation is expected to focus on : 

• Enhancement of stakeholders’ coordination in their effort to make community radio sustainable and more effective partner in development

• Increasing scope of collaboration between organizations working on developmental issues 

• Furthering the use of new media and innovative/appropriate technology in the community radio sector

The Sammelan has brought together 107 functional Community Radio Stations from across the country, Policy makers from various Government Departments like Health, Rural Development, Information Technology, Science and Technology, Agriculture, Panchayati Raj, CAPART etc. Several UN, National and other International organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank, One World Asia, AMARC, Community Radio Forum etc. are also participating in the Sammelan.