CRSs can bring the marginalised section to the mainstream
Apparently, for a nation as diverse as India with 18 officially documented languages and 1652 dialects, the wider representation of the voices for each community cannot be done through nationalised (or regional) radio and television programs, neither through a blanket nationwide program-type. Every community calls for their own personalised set of voices that need to be only delivered to that particular community. And here, the community leaders (the marginalised ones) have been pressing for community radio that has the potential to negate their marginalisation. The need is most profound for tribal, minorities, and the underprivileged.
To put an end to the years of government monopoly in radio services, the Supreme Court of India, in February 1995 decreed that “airwaves are public property” that allowed the operations of private radio stations, albeit under a number of conditions. However, even then NGOs and other civil organisations were not permitted to operate community radio stations – the government of India finally pulled back the veil on November 16, 2006 – allowing community radio stations to function without hindrances. However, there are restrictions on several aspects of Community Radio Services (CRSs), like, no news, current affairs and political comments are legitimated. Further, there are norms to be followed by CRSs that comply with decorum of respecting religious intricacies, casteism, and other linguistic or otherwise communities, thus reducing its misuse to a large extent. Moreover, advertisement time is reduced to maximum of 5 minutes at a time, thus again eliminating any scope of private usage of the airtime provided. However, still there are other jolting restrictions in which an organisation has to overcome the hurdles of multiple clearances from several ministries. This has corroborated that even at mid-2008 a thin record of only 3 out of 48 operational CRSs were owned by developmental organisations, while rest were in the domain of campus CRSs.
Despite such restrictions, there are a number of CRSs that have sized up the need, aspirations, and discontentment amongst communities especially in the rural and tribal belts. The fact that a CRS can play a stimulating role as the harbinger of social, linguistic and communal harmony can’t be denied. Mangalore based community radio Sarang 107.8FM is a case in point. The local folks like farmers, fishermen, students, workers and everybody, pitch in to the local programs that teaches them about health and hygiene, road safety, water conservation. A CRS based out of Kutch in Gujarat, airs programs that deal with female feoticide, menace of dowry and women’s education. The station is run by Kutch Women Development Corporation and is immensely popular among Kutch women for its daring programs that revitalise the thought process of rural women.
Community radio can play a significant role for the masses, who hope to overcome decades of pent-up anger against social ills and get an opportunity to hit it back. The CRS can act as an intermediary between the government and the populace, whose problems can be shared through CRSs in the best possible manner with their fellow folks. This will democratise the media with best application of freedom of speech and expression, and thereby, solving their problems in concert. With the CRS evolving, it remains an open question whether the social connect and awareness will surely be more potent in the future than what it was in the past.