Impact of Community Radio on Society: A Case Study of ‘Radio Siddhartha’

Dr. Nagendra*

Introduction

A radio station runs for and by the people of an area or locality or a community is called community radio. Community refers to a geographical area comprising of local people, a village, a group of villages, a locality, or a town. It may not be confined to a limited area but refer to people of the same mindset with the same interests, like women, fishermen, farmers, producers of milk and tribal, etc. can form their active groups and start a community radio.  In brief, community radio caters to the aspirations of a small community of people.

History of community radio

From the very beginning, the radio has continued to be owned and managed by the government. pre-independent India saw the British setting up and controlling radio stations and after independence radio has a democratic presence owned by the government. Accordingly, All India Radio under the Department of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India can alone broadcast radio.

In a remarkable judgment in the dispute between the Department of Information and Broadcasting and the Cricket Association of Bengal over telecasting of cricket matches, the Supreme Court held that airwaves are no one’s assets but belong to the general public and they should be used for the common good of the people. It was clear that the electromagnetic waves used for radio and television broadcasting could be managed but could not be monopolized.

Later events have seen the government throwing open radio waves for the private players also with efforts to pass new laws and legislations. Community radios have started to function in the country. Campaigns by several people and organizations resulted in AIR relaxing its monopolistic stance towards radio broadcasting and allow the entry of private players. Now, cities like Bangalore have started private FM stations.

These private radio stations are run commercially after paying license fees running to several crores of rupees. Technically a community radio can start operation by obtaining a license through public auction in reality it is not possible. Of late, the government has come up with new regulations to issue radio licenses to non-commercial institutions.

Accordingly, the central government allowed a few established educational institutions to start their radio stations in 2002. Universities and private institutions can apply for ‘campus radio’ licenses. Following this, “Anna FM 90.4”, a campus radio, started to function from Anna University in Chennai on 1 February 2004. In Karnataka, Dharwad University of Agricultural Sciences, Jain University, Bangalore, Neladwani Bangalore, and Sri Siddhartha Centre for Media Studies of SSIT Campus, Tumkur started community radio stations.

Community radio beginning in India

It was during the 7thfive year plan (1982-1987) that the Varghese Committee mooted the idea of starting community radio centers in India to support educational and developmental activities in 1988.  It selected Nagarcoil in Tamil Nadu on an experimental basis. Community radio started in Nagarcoil started its operation on 30 October 1984.

Community radio centers also started their operations in Bangalore and Hyderabad. It has been successful in designing programs for local people according to their needs. The first in the nation, Chitradurga Community radio station, has successfully upheld the aspirations of the local community.  Besides, these programs were designed and broadcast by the local talents. The Dharwad University of Agriculture, Boodikote in Kolar, Neladwani Bangalore, and Siddhartha Centre for Media Studies (SSIT Campus) centers of community radio had their programs designed by the students, and their broadcast catered to the needs of their student communities. Ravi Bharathi from Patna and Kolkata are the finest examples to demonstrate the role of private institutions in running such radio stations. Community radio can be effectively used for adult education purposes also.

Ownership

Development is communication now, so its need is much more important in the present context. Community radio is by and for the local community. This is not the same case with AIR. The unique size, scope, and system work beautifully with community radio.

The programs are broadcast in association with the community representatives. They plan the broadcasting policy, design the programs, and follow the programs that are broadcast religiously. That is how community radios become the voices of their communities.

Though other media of mass communication such as the Press, TV, AIR, books, and cinema are criticized widely, community radio does not invite that kind of criticism. Community radios function effectively in their limited boundaries. They represent the empowerment of communities and means of communication.

Nature of radio broadcast

The most important technical aspect of radio broadcasting is voice broadcasting. Voice is recorded and broadcast for the audience. This is literally not broadcasting. Radio broadcasting refers to such an activity where a voice from a particular area is transmitted through radio frequency to a distant place where the listeners in the radio frequency zone can hear the same. This is only possible on the radio.

Despite all these advantages, the government’s permission is required to run a community radio. There are three stages involving community radio broadcasting: production, broadcasting, and listening. Voice recording can be done without affecting public interests. Recorded programs can be aired for anyone or a community. The government controls the broadcasting of air frequencies. There are many regulations for this and a license is required to set up a radio station and start broadcasting.

Origin of community radio

Though community radios cannot operate with their own stations, some institutions prefer to use some time slots in the AIR broadcasting schedule and they have made considerable progress.

The Voice Institute of Bangalore in association with Myrada started ‘My Voice’ from Chitradurga radio station in 1997 which later became a cable casting program and is continuing at Boodikote in Kolar. In 1999 programs on ‘Kutch Women’s Welfare Organization’ from Kutch in Gujarat and ‘Kunjal Pamje Kutch Ji’ from Bhuj radio station were broadcast. Aid Bihar, an organization from Palmau in Jharkhand, has been operating “Chala Hoon Gaon Mein”, community radio from Daltonganj radio station since 2001. A community radio set up at Pasthapur, Medak district in Andhra Pradesh by the Deccan Development Society has been actively operated by the local Dalit women.

Since there is no permission to broadcast, the programs are aired with select listeners’ groups. Charak, an organization from Ranchi in Jharkhand, has been hosting a community radio named ‘Pichuvel Mann Kester’ (voice of the backward) since 2004 from the Ranchi radio station. These are community radios operating for the welfare of communities with their participation. Since they cannot establish their own radio stations, they broadcast their programs by paying some fees to the AIR. They have created history by this arrangement.

The organizations that have been striving long and hard for the interests of the community radios have had some success at last. The central government brought into effect a new community radio broadcasting policy on 16 November 2006.

Nature of operation and broadcasting

The regulations of operations of broadcasting laid down by the central government have defined some characteristics of community radio.

  1. Those institutions without any profit motive, community-based organizations, non-government bodies, societies that are registered under the Agriculture Science Institutes Society Regulation Act of ICARI, autonomous institutions, public trust scan apply for radio licenses.
  2. The registered organization must have served the local community for at least three years.
  3. Community radio must serve a definite local community.
  4. The ownership and management should represent the local community.
  5. The programs broadcast should promote education, cultural values, social mobility, and growth of the community.
  6. Community radios should not broadcast news which is political in nature.
  7. In one hour, there is a provision to include advertisements on local programs, trade, information, and services for five minutes.
  8. There shall be 50% representation from the local community participation including local language and the dialect.

According to the new operational policy, there shall be comprehensive guidelines regarding the establishment of community radio.

This is the right time

Since community radio is an effective tool as a means of radio mass communication in rural development, this tool has to be used more adequately. The central government has decided to allow the opening of more community radio stations. Some organizations are getting government aid. Besides, subject and technical experts are identified to set up radio stations.

Financial aid lessens the financial burden, or else community radio stations have to be started at one’s own expenses. For a license, one has to apply to the Department of Information and Broadcasting after reading the guidelines thoroughly.

The regulations of starting a community radio allow any organization to apply for the license for community radio. The village community has to be well informed about the bylaws of the community radio to be set up and participation of the people has to be encouraged. A committee has to be set up to form a listeners’ group, prepare a plan of action and programs. An executive committee has to be formed to run and manage the radio.

The employees have to be appointed and trained to run the programs every day. The information has to be supplied about the skills they have to acquire. Arrangements have to be made to buy the studio equipment and transmitters.

Salient features of community radio broadcasting

  1. It is for a particular community.
  2. It has a mutual co-operation policy in all matters.
  3. Any member of the community is entitled to design, produce or participate and manage the programs of the station.
  4. Programs have to be designed and broadcast to meet the aspirations of the target audience.
  5. The local community is encouraged to participate in the programs.
  6. The interests of the community have to be safeguarded.
  7. The schedules of time, policies, and regulations of programs are designed according to the convenience of the community.
  8. To serve the community more as a means of communication than as a means of revenue (commercial).
  9. It means to inform, guide, educate, and enlighten more than just to entertain.
  10. All are given equal opportunities regardless of gender differences.
  11. Encouraging participatory communication.
  12. Recognizable community to serve.
  13. Opportunity to the community to initiate communication in program production.
  14. Use of technology appropriate to the economic capability of the people.
  15. The community radio frequency of modulation covers a small area.
  16. Mainly community radio is a non-profit concern, like public service broadcaster, Information, education, and entertainment-related issues are part of the program production.
  17. Community radio stations are nearby for broadcasting programs.
  18. Each individual at a community station can give the program,
  19. Small manpower is needed for program production,

Review of literature

  1. Dr. Nagendra, History of Radio and Programme Production, Kanishka Publication, New Delhi,
  2. Other Voices: The Struggle for Community Radio in India Vinod Povaraand Kanchan Malik, Sage publication, New Delhi.
  3. Community Radio Handbook, UNESCO 2011,
  4. Understanding Community Media by Keninhowley, Sage Publications, 2010.

Statement of the problem

Studies mainly focused on the functioning in community radio stations, contributing to social changes at the micro-level, how it will contribute to educating the people and how rural areas are being served in comparison with the mainstream media with their profit motives, ways of communication, and lack of participation of the audience in program production.

Objectives of the study

  1. Examine the role of the participatory aspect of program products in the community radio station,
  2. Study exposure of community radio among the target groups,
  3. To examine the content of community radio programs their impact on bringing social changes in a group,
  4. To study how the community program is perceived by the local audience,
  5. To study how the audience is enthused by the community radio program,
  6. To examine how the local people are utilizing the community radio,
  7. To evaluate how effectively community radio programs are received by local people.

Research methodology

This study was conducted to examine the exposure, impact, and utilization of Radio Siddhartha Community radio station. The survey method has been adopted for the study and the methodology of the questionnaire has been used to collect data.

Analysis and findings

Radio Siddhartha, Community Radio station, located in Tumkur town, was started with the efforts of Sri Siddhartha Centre for Media Studies, SSIT- Campus, Tumkur. The rural and urban communities participated in the project. The community radio station broadcasts daily for nine-hour, morning 6 to 9, afternoon 12 to 3, and evening 6 to 9 on all days, including Sundays, broadcasting community, and entertainment programs.

Format of Radio Siddhartha

Its format devotes 32 % of the program to broadcast of interviews, 28% to radio talk, 26%to discussions, and 12% to phone-in programs.

Types of programs broadcast

Five of the programs are designed for students and youth, four programs are devoted to culture, three are women based and agricultural while two are health-related programs.

Respondent samples

Gender Age Income Level
Man: 32 Youth: 30 Low: 8
Woman: 28 Middle: 28 Middle: 45
Aged: 2 Higher: 7
Total: 60 Total: 60 Total: 60

Major findings

Radio Siddhartha researchers found that 65% of respondents from the community are exposed to its programs; the remaining 35% of respondents are not exposed to the community-based program to the radio station.

Perception of the radio program

It turns out that 60% of the audience follows the programs, 24% feel they are better and 16% did not respond.

Participation aspect

As for participation in the programs, 41% feel they do while 56% did not feel so and 3% didn’t know.

Impact and educative aspects

In terms of impact and educative aspects, 62% feel the programs are creating impact and changing their lives, 33% are neutral and 5% did not respond.

The utility of Radio Siddhartha

The research showed that 63% of the audience says the programs are useful, 35% are neutral, and 3% don’t agree and say that the program production contents have to improve.

Major Findings

  1. A majority of respondents feel that local participation in the programs makes them very useful and the use of local language helps them improve their lives and enlighten them.
  2. As for utility, the majority of people feel that giving necessary information on issuing ration and pensioner cards has made the community radio station very useful.
  3. The majority of respondents say that the contents are creating an impact on the youth and the cultural, health, and agricultural program are changing their views.
  4. The majority of respondents said that programs are understood well because they are broadcast in the local language and participants in the programs are local people.

Conclusion

Community radio has become a very effective and instant local communication medium. All kinds of useful programs on subjects like education, youth, health, and agriculture can be produced by the local people. Most of the radio programs are participatory in nature, involving the rural fraternity. Development can reach the micro-level with the help of the community radio and it certainly brings a broad social change.

References:

  1. Andrew Boyd, Broadcasting Journalism: Techniques of Radio and Television News, 5th Edition, Focal Press, New Delhi, 2001
  2. K. Agree, Introduction to Mass Communication, Oxford and IBH Publishing Co, New Delhi, 1979
  3. Stephen Glover, Journalists, and journalism, The Penguin Press, London, 1999
  4. Ian Hargreaves, Journalism-Truth or Dare, Oxford University Press, 2003
  5. John Herbert, Journalism in the Digital Age, Focal press, oxford, 2000
  6. Philip Rayner, Peter Wall, Stephen Kruger, Media Studies: The Essential Introduction, Rout ledge, New York, 2001
  7. M. Abdul Rehaman Pasha, An audio approach to Development Communication, Bangalore, Karnataka
  8. Nagendra, Radio Dwani, Sri Channakeshvaprakashana, Tumkur, Karnataka
  9. Nagendra, History of Radio and Programme Production, Kanishka Publication, New Delhi.
* Assistant Professor, Sri Siddhartha Centre for Media Studies, SSIT Campus, Maralpur, Tumkur (Karnataka)

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