Strong UNDP-UNESCO Backing to India's Efforts for New Community Radio Policy

06 May 2004

New Delhi, May 6, 2004: The new community radio policy for India will adopt a holistic approach to ensure that community radio stations are not just set up but sustained as well. The government is committed to finalising the new policy in as short a period as possible. This was announced at the end of the two-day workshop on "Designing and Enabling Framework for Community Radio in India". The workshop was organised by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNESCO. The workshop discussed a range of issues critical to the new policy including models for content generation, capacity building, accountability and sustainability for community radio in India.

"What we have now is good but we need to proceed to a new model that allows communities themselves to own and run their radio stations", Mr. U S Bhatia, the Joint Secretary (broadcasting), Government of India, said in reference to the existing framework for community radio in India. The policy which is up for a major revision, allows only well-established educational institutions to have (campus) radio stations, leveraging content and programme software from their neighbouring communities.

The Secretary, I&B, Mr. Pawan Chopra released a new publication "Step by Step", that is aimed as a resource guide for on community radio practitioners in India. The handbook is jointly supported by UNDP and VOICES, a Bangalore-based not-for-profit organisation specialising in social change communications. UNDP has also supported the setting up of a website that will pool in experiences from India and abroad and provide an electronic forum to widen the debate and discussion on issues relating to the development of the community radio movement in India. The website, www.communityradionetwork.org, which will be launched in June this year will make its content available in 11 Indian languages besides English.

Lauding the Government of India's initiative to consult with multiple stakeholders for a serious review of the present guidelines, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Maxine Olson said the release of the handbook marked the high point of a journey that UNDP India set out on just over one year ago - a journey to get a dialogue going on the impact and potential of such critical forms of information and communication technologies as community radio for human and social development. It was at these workshops that potential users of Community Radio identified the need for a step-by-step guide to setting up and running Community Radio stations from an India perspective using India examples. "Our support to this handbook is an expression of our commitment", Dr. Olson said.

Dr. Olson said by opening access to community radio for communication to well-established educational institutions, the Government had taken the first step in the opening up of radio as a medium of community communications. "This reflects the responsiveness of Government to the voices of those who believed passionately in the power of Community radio, demonstrating that a small network of committed people can make a difference", the UNDP India chief said. The workshop was attended by a broad coalition of community-based groups with proven expertise in operating community radio stations, key officials from several ministries including communications, rural development and law, international experts from Australia and South Africa, academics and the media. UNESCO, that was represented at the workshop by its Director Communication Development Division and IPDC, Mr. W. Jayaweera, brought extensive perspectives from developing countries across the globe where community radio has been deployed with great success to ensure the right of citizens to freedom and expression and to facilitate people's access to information.