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<nettime> Campaigners for 'freeing airwaves' welcome new CR policy
Frederick Noronha on Sun, 19 Nov 2006 06:37:19 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Campaigners for 'freeing airwaves' welcome new CR policy


Campaigners for 'freeing airwaves' welcome new CR policy

By FN

In Cyberspace, Nov 18, 2006: One decade and a year after the
Supreme Court directed New Delhi to "open up the airwaves",
campaigners who battled long for this to happen gave a sigh
of relief when India finally opened up its broadcasts to
community radio this week.

"The decision by the Indian government to allow civil society
organisations and community groups to own and operate radio
stations will give an additional tool to the civil society to
empower people it works with," commented Rahul Kumar of
OneWorld South Asia, a civil society and non-government
organisation network working in 11 languages, and in Delhi too.

On Thursday, Cabinet decided to grant permission for setting
up of Community Radio Stations to non-profit organizations --
apart from the already-permitted educational institutions --
provided they had a proven record, no links to political
parties and fulfilled some other criteria.

Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the
interests of a certain area, broadcasting material that is
popular to a local audience but is overlooked by more
powerful broadcast groups.

In South Asia, Nepal is the only country where community
radio stations have surprisingly flourished. In India,
citizens' groups have long argued for a 'third layer' of
broadcasters, apart from the State-run and commercial FM
networks.

Said Dr Vinod Pavarala, a US-educated Hyderabad-based
academic who solidly supports the idea of community radio:
"On Saturday, we are organizing a media tour of the Deccan
Development Society radio station at Machnoor (Andhra
Pradesh, that has been waiting for years to get a license). I
can't go on asking (village women there) to be any more
patient."

"The new policy will now allow civil society organizations,
NGOs and other non-profits to apply for Community Radio
licenses making 'citizens radio' a reality. Members of the
Forum have congratulated this move that will brign about
democratization of India's airwaves," commented Gujarat based
citizens' media campaigner and videographer Stalin K. of the
Community Radio Forum, India.

Backed by influential players like UNESCO and the UNDP --
both United Nations bodies -- as also the experiences of even
poorer, less tech-skilled countries in Africa and East Asia,
the campaigners have long made a case for promoting community
radio in India too.

But the news was tempered with caution. Campaigners were
cautions, after many false starts -- including a
BJP-government drafted policy for 'community radio' that only
allowed prominent educational centres to launch their own
stations, that too under strict conditions, more on lines of
campus radio.

IIT-educated Delhi engineer, whose company radiophony.com
offers circuits to create ultra low-powered FM transmitters
for a few hundred rupees, questioned the new policy.

Mehta commented, in an online discussion forum: "Wait a
second! No news or current affairs (under the new policy)?
(Delhi-based varsity) Jamia's community radio has a surfeit
of Urdu poetry, because without news and current affairs,
they don't have much else (to broadcast)."

"I agree (that this technology) will have so many spin offs.
There are exiciting times ahead!," commented Rajen Varada,
director of the Bangalore-based Technology For The People
network, also a non-profit organisation.

"(Those who have regularly campaigned in cyberspace have
probably) pushed it really hard lobbying offline as well. You
all really deserve a round of applause," commented Isteyaq
Ahmed Manager-Marketing of RED FM 93.5 Bajate Raho in Mumbai.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union noted
this decision, and said the move came "aiming to put in place
a vibrant community radio system in the country". It noted
such radio stations by non-profit organisations would be
allowed "after ensuring security clearances from the Defence
and Home Ministries."

Community radio outlets may also carry news and information
programming geared toward the local area, particularly
smaller population or language groups poorly served by other
media outlets. Its proponents argue that community stations
can be valuable assets for a region.

Technology and economics have made it possible to set up a
large number of low-powered FM stations, catering to local
needs, and more importantly offering information that could
play a crucial role in the lives of the poor, via a device
-- a radio -- the bulk can today easily afford.

Does this mark the beginning of the end of a regime where the
"world's largest democracy's" airwaves have been controlled
by rigorous oversight -- as against the only nominal controls
over its Press, cinema and internet, and moderate control
over cable TV and satellite TV? (ENDS)

Join: CR-India [http://mail.sarai.net/mailman/listinfo/cr-india]

-- 
FN 9822122436 +91-832-240-9490 (phone calls after 1 pm please)
[http://fn.goa-india.org] [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bytesforall_readers]


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