With different purposes of its inception around the globe, community radio, with its unique participatory and democratic characteristics, has brought some of the revolutionary changes at ground-level. The present case study from India examines the role of a community radio station in Mewat area of Haryana. Being a small community comprising majorly mohammadans, it forms a critical site for analyzing the potential of community radio in giving a platform to minority communities in rural areas. The study used both primary and secondary sources of data. It wasfound that the station ‘Radio Mewat’ is working as a communication link between community members and local authorities along with applying participatory methods in bothcontent production and management of radio station. This paper argues that though the sustainability of this medium in India needs more time, the policies and attitude of the central and state governments as well as that of the bureaucracy towards community radio need a rigorous review and change to utilize its full potential as a medium of developing the masses.
Mass Media has an important role to play in the society by expressing the opinions of the public. Keeping in view the present ownership structure and effect of advertising on mass media in the country, this expression of opinions in its right meaning seems very difficult. Moreover, the mainstream media may not necessarily represent all segments of the society as is evident from the findings of a recent study by Media Studies Group (April -May 2012). In this context, Community Radio becomes all the more important as no national, regional and professional broadcasters can replace it. According to Lui (1995), ‘’Community radio is a type of local radio which is an autonomous unit, which, without any commercial purpose, depends on community for its existence.’’ The concept of
Community Radio came with the introduction of Alternative Model of development. It was considered as an alternative to the then existing model which reflected the North American and European trends of development through modernization and held the concept of development communication in India till 1975.
Contrary to the top-down approach of development, this model focuses on the participation of people in the process of framing policies for the development of their respective regions. It talks about development at the level of community and provides a platform to “local people to debate their problems and issues which are relevant to them.” (Prasad,2009,pp.169). In this way, communities take their decisions themselves and contribute in the policy-making process for their welfare. Thus, the content and operation of community radio station reflects the hopes, expectations and problems of those communities that are often marginalized or fail to get place in the mainstream media. Kiran Prasad (2009) in her work ‘communication for Development’ defines community radio “as having three aspects- a. nonprofit making, b. community ownership &control, c. community participation.” (pp.169)
So, this medium becomes more democratic, participatory and appropriate to the diverse and plural social, economic, cultural and geographical ground realities and situations of various regions in India. It aims at including the far away rural areas, tribes and people in the mainstream development process, who fail to get the attention of various ministries, corporate houses, law and policy making agencies and planning and implementing authorities involved in the task of allocation and utilization of resources for various development plans. According to Michael Delorme (2012), “Its purpose is to give voice to those without voices, to marginalized groups and to communities far from large urban centres where the population is too small to attract a commercial or large-scale State Radio”. (Abiding voices, pp.11)
Community Radio and Rural development
First major experience in the use of radio for rural development was Radio Farm Project launched by AIR Pune on 19th February 1956 with the assistance of UNESCO. “Rural development id defined as the process of sustainable growth of the rural economy and involvement of well-being of rural population.” (pp.159, Communication for Development). Prasad further defines the goals of rural development as economic betterment of people and greater social transformation. She further comments, “It later became evident that accelerated development can be achieved only if governmental efforts are adequately supplemented by people’s participation at grassroots.” (pp.159, Communication for Development)
The process of rural development includes various formal and informal actors involved in decision-making and implementing the decisions made and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at and implement the decision. That is along with the government, other actors may include influential landlords,
associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions, political parties, the military, etc. Co-ordination between various actors becomes very important. Of equal importance is their knowledge and awareness about the needs, priorities and requirements of the areas where the
development work is required. And this function is fulfilled by the community radio centres by bringing both the community people and planning and implementing authorities on a common platform through their programs. This participation not only makes the objectives of development reach the needed targets, but also instills a feeling in the people of being a part of the system.
The present study attempts to understand the role of community radio in a rural area in context of its structure and functioning. The research aims not only at analyzing the existing data about the communication of a radio station in context of a rural Muslim community, but also studies and evaluates the difficulties faced by such stations while working amongst people at the ground level. Also, the study tries to evaluate the current attitude, policy and environment for the working of such medium in the country.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The purpose of the medium can be traced by looking at the pattern of origin of various community radio stations around the globe and in India as well. According to Ronkegilyolo (1995), community radio originated in Latin
America as an alternative and critique to the mainstream commercial broadcasting media and aimed at helping the marginalized to get basic education. According to Bohafa (1998), it started in South Africa as a revolution to establish democracy, decentralization and harmony among other orders of the continent after the end of racial government.
UN and other international agencies working for development through communication helped Asia in establishing its community Radio Centres.
The community was considered as a social aspect based on participation and two –way communication (J.Surveys, 1995). In Sri Lanka (1980), Mahaveli CR was established for two-way communication between the rehabilitation
authorities and the needs of the 60,000 families that got settled near Mahaveli river (MJR David, A Passion for Radio). It was followed by Thambuli CR in Philippines with a motive of making undeveloped communities self-capable of operating their CRs and participate in National Issues. The first independent CR of South Asia was Radio Sagarmatha established in Nepal in May 1997 with the efforts of environment and press organizations. Its commitment and struggle for the freedom of speech and as a defender of democracy was evident by a crackdown of army on its journalists after airing an interview of BBC Nepal service with Prachanda in 2005.
The stepping in of CR in India was a revolution (Banglore Declaration) by academicians and communication experts. The CR ‘by the women,for the women’ was started in Pastapur Community,100 kms away from Hyderabad by 70 Women organizations. It was followed by ‘NammaDhwani’ CR of Boddikot community in Karnataka, Palamu CR of Jharkhand and
‘KunjalPachche Kutch Ji’ CR in Gujarat for participation of Kutch women in Panchayats. These efforts were made before the declaration of CR Policy by MIB in 2002, amended in 2006.Currently 147 CRs are operating in India and
413 CRs have got Letter of Intent by Ministry of Information &Broadcasting and would start operating once they get resources. Maximum number of stations are in Tamil Nadu and almost no station is there in north-east India (CR
Compendium 2012 by Ministry of Information &Broadcasting).
A. Banjade (2006) conducted an audience survey of Community Radio Madanpokharain Nepal. The study revealed that the media use (listening to radio and watching television) was not homogeneous across people living in city and
their counterparts in villages as well as among people from different caste/ethnic origins. Listening to the radio was universal in the city whereas almost 15 percent people in villages reported not listening to a radio. Kerrie Foxwell (2001) conducted a National Survey of the Community Radio sector in Australia .The study found out that while community radio contested mainstream and dominant representations of Australian culture, the local roles at the community level could not be ignored. Further it concluded that a more accurate description of the sector would be ‘citizens’ media’ which acknowledged the pivotal role of citizenship and
democracy in the broadcasting process.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
- To assess the work of community radio in improving the quality of life of Mewat community
- To understand the nature and extent of community participation in the tasks of station
- To analyze the work of community radio with regard to local governance in Mewat community
- To find out the problems faced by the radio station while working for rural development
Keeping in mind the objectives of the present research, there was a need to study in detail a community radio station working in a rural area. Since, the study involves analysis of content, management and role of various organizations in the community, the present study adopted qualitative research methodology. It is the worldview that emerged out of human sciences in 20th century and focused on using qualitative methods like focus groups, case study, discourse
analysis, ethnography, semiotics, visual anthropology etc. It forms an inductive method wherein data collection is followed by the stages of meaning generation and theory formation.
Since the present study demands exploratory research design, method of case study was used wherein Radio Mewat 90.4 MHz operating in Mewat district of Haryana was included in the sample. While this community forms a critical site for analyzing the role of community radio in a rural isolated Muslim-dominated area, its winning of awards like ‘Most Innovative Program Content’ (2013) and ‘Most Sustainable Model of Community Radio’ (Tehlka, ‘FM of the masses ‘, March 24,2012) makes it a case study for exploring community participation in content management of community radio station. Both primary and secondary sources of data are used. While the primary data was collected through visit, observation and interviews, the sources for the secondary data were the documents of radio
station, the reports in media and reports of various seminars, conferences and ministries.
About the community
The Mewat district was carved out from erstwhile Gurgoan and Faridabad districts, which came into existence on 4th April 2005. It consists of five blocks namely Nuh, Tauru, Nagina, Firozpur Jhirka and Punhana. Gurgaon district bounds it on its North, while Rewari district lies to its West and Faridabad district to its East. On South, the district shares its boundary with the State of Rajasthan. The main occupation of the people of Mewat is agriculture and allied and agro-based activities. The Meos (Muslims) are the predominant population group and are completely agriculturists. The literacy rate in Mewat is comparatively low particularly in the case of female literacy. Literacy rate is 56.10 against State average of 76.60, while female literacy rate is 37.60 against State average of 66.80.
Work being done by Radio Mewat
Radio Mewat is an example of NGO operated model of community radio. It is run by SMART (Seeking Modern Applications for Real Transformation) NGO in Mewat District at its headquarter in Nuh area. Started on Sept.1, 2010, it broadcasts 14 hrs.in a day through 50 W low power transmitter from a rented flat of Mewat Development Agency and reaches 25 Km radius of area. Hardly 45 kms away from the steel and glass city Gurgaon, the area seems to be untouched by any of the developments even after being connected to the city by highway. The resistance by the Meo community leaders has prevented many a change from coming to the area. Communication strategy of the station was analyzed by looking at the format and content of its programs, the pattern in which it involves community and its role in improving the life of community members.
Role of station in improving quality of life of the community
Objective of improving the quality of life of community members includes acting as a platform to educate the community members in terms of both formal and informal education and the elements of creating awareness through its programs. On looking at the format and type of its programs, one can track the concept of persuasion through information and participation at the ground level. Keeping in mind the characteristics of being a minority and a backward area, the fundamental areas of awareness such as health, financial inclusion, Panchayati Raj Institutions, agriculture and development of villages have been considered to be made aware about. Through its program ‘Swasth Mewat’, it calls various doctors and experts in its studio and the people from the community get their health problems addressed. It includes talking about the locally available nutritious food which a Mewati woman can take and live healthy life. Along with it, the RJ tells the pregnant women about the helpline number given by government to call ambulance free of cost when needed and also convinces them to go to hospitals for delivery. “The basic problem is that people don’t know about the policies and facilities arranged by the government. They think that tuberculosis is an incurable disease because they don’t know the location and mode of reaching DOT centres and experts. This information they get from Radio Mewat”, says Meenakshi, station manager of Radio Mewat. By mutual co-operation with another NGO Hriday, it also ran an anti-tobacco campaign .
The program ‘Urdu Deeniyat’ is hosted by madarsa teacher Shaukat Ali, who comes to the studio from his village thrice a week to record Urdu lessons for children. “We don’t have enough Urdu teachers in government schools. Radio is a good medium to reach out to children who don’t go to school,” says the teacher. Informing the women about sanitation and the ways of earning income through self-help groups is also a feature of the broadcast. The ill-effects of early marriage of girls, dowry, deforestation of Aravalisare sung by their age old folk music form ‘Mirasi’ performers, and also played are the stories of Mahabharata and other epics. The proximity of the language is also used when the girls studying in faraway schools up to standard eight and the teachers are asked on the recorder about the education. With just two females among the eleven reporters the station is trying hard to fight male dominating attitude and ego problems of the community leaders while encouraging participation of women.
The radio has a special program for farmers, in which an expert is invited to talk about issues like animal husbandry, issues of crops, fishing etc. and to resolve community queries as well. Further, the station staff tries to get farmers ‘Kisan credit cards’ for small loans that can be returned once the crop is cultivated. A project titled ‘Galigali sim sim’ focuses on children to inculcate good habits. Along with this, another program Meena ki duniya also focuses on children to create awareness among them regarding education and equality. The element of educating the community about its cultural heritage has also been included by the station in its programs like Bharat kaitihas and Dastan-e-Mewat. While the former is a daily program which focuses on India’s history especially for the children of Mewat, the latter broadcasts stories and features regarding Mewat’s history, historical places and their contribution in India’s freedom. By broadcasting the profiles of each village in the area along with bytes of the people in its signature programme ‘Gaon Gaon Ki Baat’, the community not only gets connected to nearby areas, but is also motivated to follow constructive development.
Role of station in local governance
In its programme ‘Aapki Police Aapke Saath’, the SSP of the area announces from the studio awards for those getting their FIRs submitted on the station, and tells the action taken on those FIRs in the next episode. In this way, it is acting as a platform for two-way communication between the police and the people. Along with it, the SP of the area uses the studio to make important announcements regarding traffic control, crimes, khaps, etc. Listeners are offered a chance to be proactive with an accident helpline number. “If you take accident victims to hospital, you will get a reward and a police commendation certificate. You don’t need to be scared that you will get yourself involved in a police case,” announces the SSP on the station. Similarly, its reporters take their recorders to various Panchayat members in the field and ask them about various funds meant for them and the method of accessing them. Through fictional story-telling method, it narrowcasts the program ‘Hamaro Raj Panchayati Raj’ in 10 villages. The feedback reports collected from field surveys by the station confirms that people gained knowledge from it. Ajay, a listener, says in a call between the program-,”It was for the first time that the two official Gram Sabha meetings were called in Mewat. And now they have bought radios to get new information.”
“Around 10, 000 bank accounts have been opened
by the people of Mewat after the station started
calling in officers from local banks who tell them
the importance and process of opening bank
accounts and the method of savings also”, says
Jafruddin, reporter of Radio Mewat and the one
who conduxts the program ‘Pate ki Baat’. The
data has been collected by NABARD with whom
the station works for its programme‘ Aaapke
Faayde Ki Baat‘ (compendium of CR 2012 by Min
of I&B).The program informs about the
government schemes meant for locals.“We
encourage women for mutual contribution of 100 INR
through which their different requirements like
constructing toilets, running a beauty parlour and
opening bank accounts are fulfilled”, says Sunita
Mishra, another reporter of the station. She
further says, “We try to help economically backward
children to get educational loan from banks….after
listening to the program, people come to the station to
ask about how they can avail the told benefits.”
According to a report in The Hindu (6th August
2012)titled ‘Riding the Airwave’, during the visit of
station’s radio jockey Shahid to Khedlidosa
Village, he was told by a gathering of women
about a liquor racket in their village and wanted
to raise the issue through the station. After
recording their voices in the local Meo-dialect, he
played them on the station. Listening to the
voices, the SSP raided the racket in the evening.
Community participation in the tasks of radio
UNESCO Community Radio Handbook writes
about the participation of community, “the unique
advantage that community radio has over any other
type of broadcasting in winning audience is its ability
to be specifically relevant to the particular needs,
interests and desires of its relatively small
audience…..it can only reach this level of relevance
through the constant involvement of that audience the
planning, operation, and evaluation of its
programming.” (pp.57). If looked at the
involvement of community in the decisionmaking of the station, the records provided by the
station manager Meenakshi Kukkreja lists four
people in the programming committee- Mr.
Saddeq, Mr Salammuddin Advocate (involved in
social service), Mr. Wasim Akram Khaika
(Professor) and Ms. Meenakshi (Station manager).
Its reporting team contains 8 reporters and 2
volunteers, all of them belonging to the
community. Looking at the composition of its
managing committee, out of the seven people,
only one (Mrs Archana Kapoor) belongs to the
NGO running it. The remaining six members
include Mr. Bhatnagar from NABARD (posted in
Mewat), Molana Sher Mohd Amani (religious
guru from Mewat), Mr. Arif Bhadas (involved in
social service in Mewat), Ms. Mohamadi, (Zila
Paarshad and the first educated women of
Mewat), Mr. Fazruddin Baser (Sarpanch of Sakras
village and involved in social service),
Dr. Pramjeet (Deputy Director, Agriculture
Department, posted in Mewat). During the
interview, Ms. Archna Kapoor, Founder Head of
the station says, “We engage Meos not just as
listeners, but also producers; we have a content
committee which includes district officials, sarpanches,
and a maulvi,”.
Apart from this, various formats and themes of
the station’s programs involve local people as
presenters, performers, participants in discussions
and interviews. Gyan ki baat, a daily live phonein program takes up a new issue with the
students as participants. An interesting program
Buzurg mahilaaon ki baat is meant for senior
citizens. They talk about how time has changed
and they miss things like letters, marriage
ceremony’s etc. they also share recipes and songs and they celebrate the festivals at that time. Thus,
the elderly women themselves form the core part
of the program and decide its subject.
Through its live programs like Mera gaon kaisa
ho that talks about the village issues, Aaj ka
mehmaan that facilitates meeting local people and
talking about their journey and struggle,
Mahilaaon ki baat that talks about women issues
in Mewat, their rights, cases and take advice from
women protection officer and SP of Mahila thana,
Yuvaon ki baat that focuses on youth and their
issues, the community radio station seems to be
cultivate a structure that represents the
community members belonging to all age groups
along with their direct involvement in the
programs.“Sometimes we have experts or villagers as
a guest of the day. We also approach departments
through this program to be a part and connect them
with the villagers”, says Mr. Samar Khan.
Upon asking about the feedback mechanism
regarding the content and quality of programs,
Meenakshi tells, “people from the community call us
during programs and give their feedback about the
things they liked or the benefits that they got from the
content and announcements.” Narrating an
incidence, Mr. Ahmed, a farmer from
FerozpurNamak village, tells, “Initially I was used
to using cow dung as it is in the field for acting as
fertilizer, but after the expert in the program told about
converting it into fertilizer first and then using it for
field, it benefitted in the form of good harvest.”
While taking interviews and analyzing the
communication strategy of the station, the staff
expressed the difficulties they face during their
work. Reporter Samar Khan comments,“ People
have trust on the station now…….but there is a huge
problem of funds. I think the administration should
give 100 percent support to the community radio
centers, like the funding that the Collector or District
Commissioner received for giving advertisements to
the newspapers, they should think about giving local
advertisements to medium like ours as well.”
- Following difficulties were found during the data
analysisDifficulties faced by the radio station
Though CRS receives co-operation by central
government but the attitude of state
governments is poor as far as funds, visibility
and other factors are concerned. Also, the
state-level bureaucracy does not allow the
efforts of the station to reach its destination.
For example, after getting informed about
various helpline numbers, if the authorities
do not pick up calls, the effort goes waste.
- Since many of the community people are
unemployed, it is very difficult to get
volunteers and that too for a long term.
- As is evident from the Case Study, the station
got applied for spectrum license in 2007 but
got it in 2009.The procedure of getting
spectrum license is time-taking and complex
and this affects the relevance and timeliness
of the ideas thereby discouraging and
demotivating the volunteers.
- Male-dominating attitude at various levels
makes it difficult to convince opinion leaders
about the empowerment of women in the
area whether it is about education or
employment or participation in the Radio.
- CR Policy of the Ministry of I&B puts limits to
funds which creates problem in the efforts of
the station. As a result of complex foreign
funding policy and limited government
sponsorships, manpower becomes less and
the organization personnel has to invest
personal money to sustain it. This is evident
when Ms. Archana Kapoor says,“ Since the
time I had started this radio, I had to tell my
daughter to wait for her marriage till the next
policy of Government of India is here.”
- There is no existence of any kind of
mainstream media to work in co-ordination
with or to get visibility for the station.
- Since there are no local markets, no local
advertisements are available which further
worsens the conditions of local funds.
- Though the station is trying to revive the
dying age old culture of the area through
‘Meerasi’ performance in the programs,
shortage of funds also creates problems here,
like the TA of artists from Rajasthan, any
remuneration for performances etc.
- The casual attitude of the people of
community does not allow to it to become
- The shortage of funds to buy many loud
speakers, play back recorders, etc. stops the
station from repeating the broadcasts on
various spots of community gathering in the
field, like Tuesday market, or some fair
OUTCOME OF DATA ANALYSIS
- Mewat community radio station has adopted
a two-step flow model of communication that
is considered suitable for interpersonal
communication. It involved the opinion
leaders of the community like panchayat, maulvi, teachers to influence the community
members in groups regarding the change it
wants to bring for their development.
- The format of programs reflects a wellresearched strategy with a clear focus on
habits, preferences and needs of the
- Use of local dialect by the station in its
programs has the potential to create a close
connection with the members of rural
community. This also acts as a factor of
motivation for the community members to
participate more and more in its programs
either by displaying their talent and
performance or by expressing their views in
the discussions taking place at the station.
The importance of this strategy has been
highlighted by Kiran Prasad when she writes,
“The use of informal local dialect adds to the
comfort and confidence of listeners, as well as their
comprehension of the information imparted.”
(pp.169, Communication for Development)
- Participation of community members in the
managing committee and programing
committee of the station, as per the records
received, suggests a democratic structure
which can be called ‘owned and controlled by
the people’, though the participation seems
not to be there in context of funds or other
- The program content reflects a complete
communication package containing source of
awareness, education and entertainment
being given by the station to its listeners in
the community, thereby justifying the ideal
objectives of operation of a community radio
as highlighted by UNESCO Community
Radio Handbook 2001- “in addition to pleasing,
entertaining and perhaps providing some general
enlightenment for its audience, they also seek to
facilitate change, social progress and better living
conditions in the community that the radio
- Use of folk culture and music by the station
conveys a positive step on the part of its
communication strategy of communicating
messages of change like family planning, girl
child education etc. by appealing to the heart
and soul of the community through theatre
performance, singing and plays etc.
Moreover, the way programs involving
different people from community regarding
their age old traditions, marriage ceremonies,
recipes, songs and festivals is a good effort on
the part of the station to promote the art and
cultural heritage of the community.
- By helping the community members in terms
of getting their bank accounts opened,
broadcasting academic Urdu lessons,
providing them response on their FIRs and
acting as a platform of important
announcements like ambulance helpline no.,
police helpline no., government policies etc.,
the station has established itself as centre
point in the community, thereby acting as a
catalyst for solving their problems and thus,
helping in their development. This aspect has
also been highlighted by UNESCO in this
way- “Every effort should also be made to have
the radio station seen as a focal point in the
community where people are free to come and talk
to the staff and discuss ideas for programs in
which they could be involved.” (pp.58, UNESCO
Community Radio Handbook 2001)
- The content seems to be democratic in terms
of representing issues and concerns of
different sections of the community like
youth, women, children, elders etc.
- The station seems to have not applied
techniques for evaluation and monitoring
except the calls received from community
members as feedback. Thus, the station needs
to start a process of periodical monitoring of
programs; maintenance of records related to
choices and interests of the people and should
evaluate the language and sound quality
related aspects of the programs as well.
In context of the current policy of government
regarding community radio and the kind of work
stations like these are doing, the following
recommendations can be helpful in utilizing the
potential of community radio as a medium in true
- The centers of All India Radio in various regions can also be used for training of station management, program production and other skills.
- GOI can go for partnership with the NGOs for the capital expenditure of the station, or it can allocate separate funds to Panchayati Raj Institutions for establishing and maintaining a community radio, as the estimated cost of establishing a CRS can go upto 15 lakhs. Even though the new policy of government of India provides grant up to 50%, but that too can be received only after operating it for three months after approval of grant and this seems very difficult for a station which is already facing the lack of funds
- A single window process for granting license to the organizations and agencies except the government ones is the need of the hour. Instead of getting the application passed through 8 ministries in 10 stages, one person each from some other ministry can be collaborated with Ministry of I&B for the verification and other processes. This would help in making the license procedure efficient, effective and simple.
- Sensitization of state governments is a must through workshops and seminar sessions, and it can be started at the district level first.
- A strategic membership drive can be undertaken by giving badges to the community people. It will foster a sense of identity, participation and dignity.
- CRS should also follow the process after people contact the relevant authorities as it can hold them accountable and make them answerable to the complaints not acted upon.
- Many common Internet forums like ‘Ek Duniya Anek Aawaaz’ need to be established to facilitate the exchange and sharing of ideas, concepts, skills and many other resources among various centres.
- More and more qualitative research needs to be focused upon for trapping and adopting the changing needs and interests of diverse groups.
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The concept and process of development has
shifted from top-down approach to participatory
one in the past five decades. The process of taking
development to the grass root level involves
many actors including local administrative
agencies, non-governmental organizations and
voluntary groups who can act as a mediator by
involving people in various policies and decisions
at the community level. Community media is
more democratic in its structure and functioning
than the mainstream one. But it needs technical,
financial and skill-base support from the policy
makers in order to involve more and more
people in the process of development and
governance at the grass root level. Radio Mewat
seems to be acting at its best in bringing social
change and betterment in the lives of community
members, though the risks of this medium getting
completely into the hands of an NGO cannot be
ignored. Therefore, the government needs to
revamp its policy and attitude towards
community media keeping in mind the diverse
needs, interests, cultures and aspirations of different rural and isolated communities in the country.