August 19, 2007

Community radio goes live in Rajasthan

Kalyan Singh Kothari

“This is community radio Aapno FM Radio Bansthali on 90.4 MHz live phone-in programme! Best wishes for empowerment and social change.” With these words, Cecillo Adorna, Country Representative UNICEF, recently inaugurated the ‘live’ project of Bansthali Vidhyapeeth and UNICEF at Bansthali, Niwai tehsil, in Tonk district of Rajasthan.

Community radio has been functioning on the university campus since January 2005, reaching 50 villages in and around Bansthali within a radius of 10-15 kilometres. The FM Radio Station that broadcasts for three hours daily has now been extended to six. The programmes focus on topics of education, health, environment, agriculture, rural and community development.

Local anchor Meenaxi Udawat and youth volunteer Ranglal Sainer of Chikana village and Nirmla of Badodiya village, trained in radio production, expressed their experiences at the inaugural session. “Our world has completely changed after coming here for training. Earlier we were afraid to even speak out in public but now we feel confident to express the sentiments and thoughts of our community,” they said.

Village youth volunteers (VYV) from Niwai block have been associated with community radio project since its inception. Around 100 VYVs were given training in how to assess community needs for audience preferences on radio programmes.

In this training workshop, they were exposed to basics of the medium, various programme formats, studio production and field research, how to write scripts, and presentation of interactive programmes – like interviews, discussion, anchoring, phone-ins, skits, dramas and music-based shows.

Sixty-four students of Bansthali Vidhyapeeth have also undergone training in production of radio programmes.

While launching the ‘Live phone-in-programme’ Adorna said that community radio is a truly participative communication tool that allows people to decide their information and entertainment needs in a way that is unique, exciting and empowering for them. It allows them to become “change agents and not merely the subjects of change.”

Hailing the community radio project as “an example of integrated behaviour change in communication programme” Adorna said that the objective was to demonstrate the potential of this new medium for bringing about behavioural change in the community using local language, idiom, culture and entertainment.

He also appreciated that the village volunteers, who emerged from the participatory process, were to be leaders of this project; thereby building their capacity and sustaining their interest in behaviour change communication.

The community radio project operational under the guidance of NGO partner CEDECS, is also a part of ‘Gram Shakti’ – the integrated Village Planning Project supported by UNICEF and the District Administration in Tonk district. Under Gram Shakti project, village planning exercises and follow-up of development plans have been completed in all of 1,044 villages of Tonk.

In Niwai block, where the community radio project is functional, village development plans have been completed in 191 villages – 50 of which fall in the vicinity of the community radio. In these villages, volunteers act as community links and facilitators for the radio listeners’ groups set up in the villages.

A survey was undertaken in these 50 villages in Niwai block to assess the radio listening habits of the audiences who tune in to Aapno Radio Bansthali. Over 3,000 households were contacted. Findings revealed that 60.5% of the people have access to radio and almost 78% of population comprised regular listeners.

While delivering the presidential address, Professor Diwakar Shastri, Chairman of Bansthali Vidhyapeeth said, “Community radio in India faces three constraints. First, their reach is quite limited as compared to other FM radios. Second, they cannot include any programme on news and current affairs in their repertoire. This limits their effectiveness. The last constraint is that they cannot air advertisements. While city-based FM radios are minting money, the agencies running community radios have to do with its own resources.”

Dr Satish Kumar, Rajasthan State UNICEF Representative added that evaluation of the impact of radio programme messages on audiences would be carried out during December 2007 - March 2008.

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