What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
We all know the power of media to mobilise thought and action. Community radio is a fabulous grassroots tool to address and tackle local social and environmental issues and give people back their most basic human right, the right to know and then to act on that knowledge. A tool for social inclusion, it has the potential to give marginalised people a voice, and empower them with information that can vastly improve their lives and livelihoods. Programmes cover education, reproductive and public health, nutrition and disease control in children, livelihoods and new farming technologies, resulting in better yield and healthier returns.
This project will allow us to share and transfer both hard and soft skills in running a successful and impactful community radio station so that tomorrow, they can help themselves. Through shared experiences and learning we will prove that community radio can have a high social impact with returns, both social and financial.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
In a country like India, where 72% of its 1.1 billion people live in rural areas, 35% are illiterate and 25% live below the poverty line, community radio has a massive role to play. Also, with around half of India still off the electric grid, radio, where all it takes is a couple of batteries or a few rounds of wind up and you are off, still remains king!
At the end of 2006, the Indian government revised its existing community radio policy to allow NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs) to apply for licenses enabling them to broadcast their own material and run their own stations. While this was widely viewed as a step in the right direction, the potential of community radio is sadly, far from being realised. Of the 160 community radio stations currently on-air, only 40 are run by organisations focussed on development. The rest are campus stations, broadcasting across well-connected and heavily-funded universities in urban India. Lack of awareness of the potential of the medium, an absence of knowledge and experience sharing between existing stations, a shortage of trained personnel in the field, bottlenecks in the licensing process and the dearth of funds, are some of the key issues preventing the development of this sector.
What is your solution?
Over 2010-11, People’s Power Collective conducted a six-month field study to gain a first-hand understanding of the successes and challenges faced by remote communities in setting up radio stations in rural India. This study was funded by the prestigious Sir Ratan Tata Trust, India. The core problem areas that were identified are community divisions and lack of wider participation; conflicts in ownership and management; insufficient content creation and lack of quality control; ineffective station positioning and awareness building; inadequate skills development, training and capacity building/sharing; limited focus on economic sustainability; no monitoring reporting and evaluation tools; the challenge of increasing women’s participation; limited partnerships and networks in play; fear of new technology innovations and a lack of confidence to deal with government and policy makers. If community radio is to succeed in India, and become a potent platform for change, we believe, these issues must be addressed.
How will you deliver this?
We have developed an 18-month participatory training and capacity-building programme that seeks to address the challenges identified by the study. It targets community radio staff and the beneficiary community, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to set up their own community radio station and guide it into the future. Envisaged as a Social Enterprise that combines radio with a Community Resource Centre, the station will be a presence around which the community can organise themselves, prioritise their needs and drive change. After the 18-month training programme is complete, the target station will have the skills, knowledge and partnerships to independently guide itself into the future. Our approach also includes a reflective component that allows us to capture learning in the form of five illustrated, practical, multilingual tool books; a blueprint, an aid for replication and a useful guide for other organisations and communities, seeking to set up their own sustainable community radio stations. In this way, People’s Power Collective will support syndication and the replication up of community radio in India, while we move on to more programmes, extending our services to communities that need it most.