More community radio licences for the most disadvantaged areas of India #TheRadioFestival Delhi

Thursday 14 February, 2019


“It is rare to find public, private and community radio working together, but they are doing so for this radio festival,” said UNESCO representative Al-Amin Yusuph, opening the Delhi Radio Festival on World Radio Day.

WRD was proclaimed in 2011 adopted by the UN General Assembly the following year.

Explaining the idea behind WRD, Yusuph told delegates the international day aims “to strengthen interaction and cooperation amongst broadcasters and to celebrate radio as a medium.”

“In this world, peace remains an elusive goal. Radio is important for achieving peace, which comes from a dialog between opposing ideas… Dialog achieves tolerance and tolerance leads to peace,” he said.

Another important aspect of radio is that it promotes oral traditions. “We love to sing and we love to talk, radio makes it easy for any citizen to express themselves… When someone speaks on radio they don’t see their audience so they are less scared to speak,” he told the audience.


The Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Amit Khare broke the news that the ministry will introduce new licences for 150 stations in disadvantaged districts within the next year, then will further roll out community radio licences to each district of India.

“Radio will be very important in helping India achieve the UN strategic goals,” he said.

“There are some community radio stations in India, but there are 700 districts in this country. The ministry has decided that 150 of the poorest ‘aspirational’ districts will have a community radio station supported by the government by the end of the year. This will help these regions to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. After that we will work towards every district having a community radio.”

He told the story of a time when he was an official in the administrative service and he visited a flood affected district. “I was returning from an area that was flooded. We saw some people assembled around a kerosene lamp and I asked my driver to find out why they had gathered, do they need some help. The driver came back and said, ‘radio sir.’”

“They were gathered around the radio listening to the regional news. In such a remote area cut off from everything with water all around, they needed the radio for information about the level of floods and they craved for it to give them entertainment to relive their worries… Radio still continues to be a important even with so much new communications technology around,” he said.

Radio Festival founder Archana Kapoor, the Station Director of Radio Mewat told the packed auditorium about her community station, which she has run for the last 8 years:

“I know the potential of community radio. It has given an identity to people in my region.”

Discussing how the festival began, she said: Anders Held was the inspiration for this festival.

"When I saw Radiodays Europe I said we should do something like this. We wanted to celebrate audio and join everyone together in this festival.”


She also launched a community radio toolkit (main picture), which will help stations to communicate the UN Sustainability Goals.


Siddarth Shrestha from UNICEF highlighted one of the superpowers of radio - to ignite the imagination. “That is the exclusive power that only radio has. Visual mediums do not have this,” she said.

She stressed the importance of this aspect of radio, especially for children. “Radio can impart education and information through its extensive reach, and also delivers entertainment. We cannot disconnect the way radio influences people’s hearts… It communicates in simple dialects that everyone can understand.”

Sharif Rangnekar, a self described “queer individual in India” spoke about disadvantaged minorities. He told the audience how it took a long while for him to come to terms with my own sexuality. He came out in 1999 and is now a voice for the gay community in India.

“The idea from the world around me was that I was different. When I came out the thing that confronted me and my close friends was the lack of information. It made it difficult for people like me, there were very few options for me and limited spaces where I could be myself, other spaces seemed claustrophobic.

“I went through a journey of realising who I am. As I went through my journey I found people who would accept me for who I am.”

He reminded the audience that radio can help fill the knowledge gap about minority communities.


In a later panel session, a range of speakers discussed the importance of radio for different groups in society.

George Abraham, a blind radio producer, spoke about the need for sight-impaired people to be able to take part in many activities such as sport, employment, and radio broadcasting. When people with a disability find that they can do things they will have a better life.


Rapper Sumeet Samos gave a performance illustrating how he is speaking up for the rights of young people in rap.


All India Radio’s Shirley Jacob said her station will look into embracing rap music as a way to convey youth voices on All India Radio. She then spoke about All India Radio’s important heritage and its mandate to serve the country, but also explained that radio must keep up with new delivery platforms to keep delivering its content to audiences on all the new platforms.


Pallavi Gupta from Red FM discussed how her channel collaborates with NGOs to embrace people who are voiceless and that rap culture is one of those cultures. “Radio is the only medium that opens up important conversations.”

A Red FM campaign generated donations of 1 crore Rupees from people who want to be a part of change and support our social campaigns. “We work with various groups that use music for empowerment,” she said.


Pinky Chandran from RadioActive said community radio stations give a voice to the voiceless. “Our community station has been set up for 11 years and we work hard to include the voiceless. We actively go out to find people who need a voice…, we work to give visibility to those we see in our daily lives but also don’t see, the domestic workers, drivers, cleaners, LGBTQI community etc.”


Shahid Rasool from CEMCA discussed how his organisation helps communities get licences. “Despite all efforts by everyone, including the government, there are not enough community stations on air,” he said. He urged NGOs and governments to support community radio stations to get on air and then sustain their transmissions over time. “Community radio takes a bottom up approach… it needs to happen like that so that community radio can genuinely connect with communities and give them their own voice to talk about their challenges and problems.”

“Community radio needs to think along similar lines to a temple. mosque or church. These institutions in each community are sustained by the community, without government support, because the community needs those institutions to feed their spirituality. Community radio should be just as important to the community so that the community will support them in the long term.”


After the lunch break, one of All India radio's classic radio dramas was performed live to the delight of the audience.




Country India
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