Challenges of Running Community Radio
A Statement by Gurgaon ki Awaaz 107.8 Station
Gurgaon ki Awaaz is one of the radio stations arbitrarily issued a notice for carrying ‘objectionable and denigrating’ content on its radio station. The station director has issued this statement accepting the challenges of running a community radio station in a society where misogynistic language, even abuse, often creeps into discourse; this is worth a read as it has lessons for all those who wish to engage with mass media and community participation.
This week PTI released a story that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued warnings to some community radio stations over content which a high level panel thought was “objectionable and denigrating” towards women. The “warning” is a culmination of a process of issuing show cause notices, the stations replying, then being summoned before an Inter Ministerial Committee to give their replies verbally, and finally receiving the warning letter as a closure to the proceedings. Gurgaon Ki Awaaz received a show cause notice early this year. We have replied to the said notice and dealt with it officially.
This statement is a clarification for the wider CR community necessitated by the PTI report.
Committed to the principles of community media, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz has been set up and is run as an open, accessible media space for our community members, comprising over 500,000 local villagers and migrant workers living and working in Gurgaon. In the true spirit of a community radio station, we believe our community must have access to the station, not just to listen, but also to speak, to be content producers, even with little or no training. We are equally committed to following the policy guidelines for community radio.
Because we want our community members to do well, we take the precaution of explaining the CR policy to them and see to it that the program recorded by them is edited by a staff reporter. Despite these precautions, and perhaps because our community members are not trained professionals, an offending word slipped through, not once but twice, in a program of jokes recorded by a listener who had simply walked into the studio from the nearby village of Mullahera.
That it was said in the passing, and not as a part of the main narrative, indicates the level of misogyny that has entered our day to day language across the country. The reporter on duty (also from a nearby village and hence equally entrenched in the same language) too did not notice or cull out the word.
Meanwhile, we have taken additional steps, beyond our existing processes of screening content, to ensure compliance with the CR Policy Guidelines. The community radio policy guidelines have been translated into Hindi and broadcast on air by volunteer-listeners. Old time listeners have been trooping in to help screen content, especially folk songs which are often carriers of aspects of patriarchy, misogyny, casteism, racism, and more. Team members have been asked to be more rigorous in screening content.
This incident throws up the peculiar challenge of running a community radio station. Do we down the gates like commercial FM and public radio station, where a series of “passes” and “entry slips” control access to studios and thus ensure that only full time staffers and carefully screened “volunteers” produce and broadcast programs?
We reiterate our commitment to the principles of community media, and to the rules laid down governing community radio broadcast in India. We also stay committed to our promise of a community-led, and community-facing radio station. We believe that a community radio station HAS to have an open door policy; that it HAS to encourage community members to walk in and go on air.
We issue this statement in the hope that in future no action of ours is a step back in our effort to strengthen community voices. We would like our wider CR community to know and understand and accept that this breach of broadcasting code is completely unintended, and has happened in good faith, in the spirit of the CR Policy that encourages community radio stations to be open spaces for community members to come forward and participate in program making.
If you have any ideas on this issue, on how we can better our processes, on our approach to community participation and community broadcasting, we would like to listen to you. Please do send us your feedback at [email protected] (link sends e-mail).
Thank you for your support.
Station Director – Gurgaon Ki Awaaz Samudayik Radio Station 107.8 MHz
First published, with featured image, in Sabrang.
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