From: sajan venniyoor <email@example.com>
Subject: [cr-india] Radioing friends over airwaves - Sangham Radio
To: CR India <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'Sangham Radio', India's first community radio station, celebrated its first
anniversary on 15 October, 2009. For those of us who were unable to share
the moment with General, Algole, Satheesh and the women of Pastapur, here's
a report from today's Deccan Herald.
*"Radioing friends over airwaves"*
R Akhileshwari, Deccan Herald, 1 Nov 2009
The amphitheatre in Machnoor village of Zaheerabad mandal in Medak district
was recently buzzing with women who had turned out in their finery: wearing
brightly coloured, inexpensive but new sarees and their traditional
necklace of 'gundlu' and ear-rings called 'genteelu' with flowers in their
hair, the women of nearby villages turned out for an occasion that was as
historic as their own. Their 'Sangam Radio' had turned all of one year.
Sangam Radio is India's first community radio, entirely owned and run by
members of women's groups or Sangams as they are known. These Sangams are
supported by the Deccan Development Society that has been working for the
poorest, landless, Dalit women of Zaheerabad for the past 25 years helping
them reclaim their lives from the relentless forces of globalisation. This
was achieved through regaining their control over food production, seeds,
natural resources and management, the market and finally over the media.
Setting up the community radio was part of the efforts to shake off the grip
of a centralised media that alienates the communities from their own roots
that lie in their culture, traditions and language. Most importantly, the
radio became the voice of the community as it highlights problems which
afflict their crops, livestock and families as also the solutions that are
thrashed out on air and solutions shared.
As Bidekanne Sammamma said: "Our radio is our friend. When we come home
after a day's hard work our minds are full of problems we switch on our
radio and are revived..with the radio by my side I feel my dost is there at
home,'' she said. Sangam Radio had its beginnings in the idea that the
media should be an expression of the community, articulated in its own
language unique to the region; that it should be a mirror of their
identities and traditions; that it should be a platform for day-to-day
problems and issues of their lives and livelihoods; it should be an outlet
of their joys and woes, of their creativity, of their music and songs, of
their crops and food. The idea was to reaffirm their strengths rather than
be swamped by an alien media propagating an alien culture.
It was to take pride in them rather than be persuaded by a media that they
were somehow lesser beings for being themselves. Sangam Radio started in
1998 with UNESCO's help. Half a dozen women from Dalit, poor, landless
families were trained in all aspects of radio programming. They produced a
few hundred hours of programming and since the stiff rules of broadcasting
would not be relaxed, Sangam Radio 'narrowcast' their programmes, playing
the tapes in the weekly meetings of the Sangam.
However following the revolutionary judgement of Justice P B Sawant in the
Supreme Court that airwaves were public property, Sangam Radio went on air
on October 15, 2008. It is on air daily between 7 and 9 pm. The programme
content is a mix of interviews, discussions, songs, folk tales and plays.
According to a study, 80 per cent of the participants are women and Dalits.
Elders are particularly encouraged to participate as they are seen as
valuable repositories of knowledge.
Sangam Radio has discarded the traditional top-down development approach and
focuses on creating awareness in the community, based on the premise that
critical information will trickle down and they will absorb information
important to them. Instead the participatory approach has been adopted where
the community makes the decisions about what is important to their lives.
Importantly, the community owns the radio. Out of the 5000 women members of
the Sangam (that are active in about 75 villages), at least 2000 are
'active' members, each contributing Rs 5 per month which takes care of the
expenses of the radio station and its staff. Thus, the community ensures
that the radio like the mainstream media does not depend on advertising
which comes with its own set of strings attached.
This model of community shareholding is unique in the country and which
apart from financial sustainability, ensures social sustainability with a
strong sense of ownership and identification of the community with the
Another unique feature of the Sangam radio station is that the community
members are not mere listeners but active participants. The radio station
keeps its doors open for people to come and record their talk, songs or
share their problems or knowledge. This promotes not just informality but a
sense of belonging like we don't need to take an appointment to get into our
home! People from different villages are encouraged to visit the station
once a month to take part in various programmes. Sangam Radio is not just an
experiment but a valuable lesson on democratisation of the media and a huge
step towards demystifying it!
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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