(Fwd) Vickram's letter on community radio in India

  • To: s-asia-it at apnic dot net
  • Subject: (Fwd) Vickram's letter on community radio in India
  • From: "Irfan Khan" <KhanIA@super.net.pk>
  • Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2000 19:10:08 +0500
  • Sender: owner-s-asia-it@lists.apnic.net
    • [courtesy DevMedia]
      ------- Forwarded message follows -------
      From:       "Frederick Noronha" <fred at bytesforall dot org>
      To:         <cr-india at goacom dot com>
      Subject:    [cr-india] Vickram's letter 
      Date sent:  Thu, 14 Dec 2000
      Any further follow-up to Vickram's well-drafted letter below? Vincent
      Subramaniam <svincent20 at hotmail dot com> had posted it to this list. Can
      we take it forward? Any suggestions? -FN
      ********************Vickram Crishna's draft*************************
      This letter is addressed to the nation (and perhaps to the world)
      because it addresses an issue that concerns everyone.
      The most popular medium of communication in the world is radio,
      addressing many times more people collectively than telephones
      (one-to-one) and television (expensive to produce and disseminate). It
      is the only medium that has the potential to cover issues of purely
      local concern, being extremely cheap to produce and needing very low
      levels of skill on the part of all concerned.
      Unlike any time before in history, a medium of communication has been
      developed that enables small groups of people to share information
      amongst themselves. This is the fundamental concept behind community
      radio, a form of radio broadcasting that allows common citizens to
      express themselves in the local arena. Community radio broadcasting is
      understood by definition to cover low power transmission within a
      small area, not exceeding a few tens of square kilometers. This
      enables the utilisation of bandwidth, the otherwise (popularly
      considered) scarce infrastructural commodity, to be maximised, since
      the same set of frequencies can be used over and over again throughout
      the country with no discernible loss of quality.
      Today, India stands at the crossroads of development. At no time in
      our history have we had such a huge accumulation of educated adults in
      one country. At the same time, the numbers of those unable to access
      knowledge are staggeringly large. From one viewpoint, education is the
      most important channel that needs the production and dissemination of
      content.  For this reason, IGNOU has been charged with promoting a
      large number of public content FM stations through the country.
      But is this enough? Indeed, can education be disseminated independent
      of any other social initiative? Perhaps an alternate approach, one
      that empowers local communities to develop content for themselves, in
      which formal education has one role out of the many that will flower,
      should also be considered.
      Can this country afford to set up so many hundreds of radio stations,
      some may think to ask. Consider then that Indian technological talent
      has recently, independent of any foreign initiative, built an FM radio
      transmitter that is small enough  to fit in a suitcase and costs just
      a few thousand rupees. Except for the walls, the rest of the equipment
      needed to produce decent audio programmes for broadcast is already
      small enough to fit in a bag  a tape recorder with microphone, or as
      a high-quality option, a minidisc recorder, a laptop or desktop
      computer with suitable software for mixing and scheduling digital
      audio, and of course the necessary battery backups for running the
      studio in areas where regular electricity is a perennial problem.
      This means that unlike the traditional concept of centralised
      production of audio content for broadcast, the means for
      decentralising production to the very people for whom the content is
      intended and is particularly relevant is already at hand. Mobile
      studios for production need be little larger than a suitcase, and the
      broadcasting station itself be a single room with a suitable mast
      antenna sufficient to make the low-power transmitter signal available
      to the command area (in a radius typically of just five kilometers).
      What are the major concerns in such a scenario? One is of course cost
       but as we have seen above, the cost is very affordable for any small
      community, less than two lakhs fixed cost upfront at the most, plus
      some few thousands a month for consumables, exactly how much depending
      on the number of hours for which broadcast is meaningful.
      The second is security  perhaps such stations can be misused for
      broadcasting seditious content. The likelihood of this is of course
      debatable, but it does little credit to the world's largest democracy
      to distrust its citizens, well after 50 years of independence, or even
      to assume that the security threat is high enough to deny formal and
      social education to the people who most need it.
      Thirdly, there is the social value of a community radio  it can act
      as an early warning system in case of natural calamity, and will
      otherwise provide the most natural form of community bonding that can
      be conceived  broadcasting for the people, with content of the people
      made by the people themselves. This is surely a laudable objective for
      a country whose biggest social problem is communication, or rather the
      lack of it.
      As concerned citizens, we believe that it is time that ordinary people
      were given an opportunity to participate in their own development
      process, especially given that the divide between the haves and
      have-nots has deepened and can only further exacerbate, as knowledge
      has become the key differentiator in the modern economy.
      ------- End of forwarded message -------