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India’s community radio gaining audience with young people

Written by Mahendra.Ved
by Akshita Nagpal, The Hindu newspaper
Radio has been all but ignored in the rapid rise of digital media, but is catching up among the young again in India. Community radio is part of that wave, with half a dozen community stations in Delhi.
The following article by Akshita Nagpal in The Hindu looks at the rise and role of community radio stations.

“When Farzana Zafar began her radio show with a couplet by Firaq Gorakhpuri in a small studio in South-West Delhi’s Jamia Nagar on a July afternoon, she gave impetus to the school of alternate radio that exists here.

The middle-aged homemaker and an avid reader of Urdu poetry has been presenting shows for seven years on Radio Jamia, the community radio run by Jamia Millia Islamia University from the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre.

“Voices on the radio have fascinated me since childhood and through Radio Jamia, I became one of the voices,” she said.

Radio Jamia, which started in 2005, broadcasts shows from 2-5 p.m. and replays the previous day’s broadcast from10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The programme broadcast include an hour-long ghazal segment and a 20-minute dedicated show for regional songs covering diverse linguistic communities residing in its service area, apart from shows on education, health, sports and social issues.

Talking about the impact of community radio, Radio Jamia producer Shakeel Akhtar shares an anecdote: “An announcer here, Urooj Fatima, who had done a segment on female literacy was travelling by a cycle-rickshaw in Jamia Nagar when the rickshaw-puller recognised her voice. He told her that he got his two daughters admitted to school because of her programme.”

Community radio, which means radio broadcasting with the objective of serving the community by involving its members in the broadcast of programmes, was ushered into India after the mid-1990s.

Presently, educational institutions, registered non-profit organisations and agricultural institutions are eligible to run community radio stations in the country. Delhi has around half-a-dozen community radio stations, each having a coverage range of about 10-12 kilometres.

From the northern part of Delhi operates the Delhi University Community Radio (DUCR), a community radio run by a publically-funded institution. DUCR, was started in 2007, currently operates out of the University stadium at North Campus under the supervision of consultant R.K. Singh. “It is a community radio run by, of and for students,” said Mr. Singh.

The content of DUCR, which includes information on campus happenings, career, health, and live lecture sessions and a host of other content, is broadcast from 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on all days except Sunday. It is also accessible via the Internet.

The presence of community radio remains largely obscure outside its coverage area due to the din of mainstream radio channels. “The penetrative capacity and efficiency of community radio needs to be enhanced to give listeners a choice between private FM and community radio,” feels Tanvir Aeijaz, an Assistant Professor at Ramjas College who has contributed content to DUCR on issues like gender and ragging.

His sentiments are echoed by N. Ramakrishnan, the general-secretary of Community Radio Forum, an advocacy body in the realm of community radio in India.

“Colonies and blocks should have their community radios to contribute to active citizenship” said Mr. Ramakrishnan, expressing dismay that over the fact that all of Delhi’s community radio stations are run by educational institutions and none by civil society groups.

“The process to start a community radio takes too long. Moreover, there should be a specific mandate to reserve spectrum for community radio than for commercial radio,” he added.”

photo credit: Niklas Morberg via cc

About the author



Mahendra Ved is a New Delhi-based journalist. He writes a column for The New Straits Times in Kuala Lampur. He is Senior Editor with Power Politics monthly magazine and contributes to several journals. He is a regular on All India Radio and had long stints before turning to freelance with The Times of India and The Hindustan Times. He began his career with United News of India (UNI) news agency. Ved has co-authored two books, Afghan Turmoil: Changing Equations (1998) and Afghan Buzkhashi: Great Games and Gamesmen (2000). He writes on political affairs and focuses on India’s neighbourhoods. He also lectures at the Indian Institute of Mass Communications and Times of India’s Times School of Journalism.

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