A novel concept of community radio was started on March 13, 2009 when Himachal’s first wireless broadcast was launched by the then chief secretary Asha Swaroop at the MS Panwar Institute of Communication & Management, Shamti, Solan. This broadcast station, more widely known as the “hamara 90.4 FM” runs with a punch line of ‘subki zuban pe shor, hamara 90.4 Mhz” radio, which is gaining immense popularity with the local community who are not only sending requests for certain programmes but equally contributing by giving feedbacks as well.
Even though community radio is growing rapidly in other states its growth in Himachal has been quite slow as there are not many takers. There are three types of radio systems, one which are government sponsored such as the AIR, second is the private FM radios and third is the community radio which are run by NGO’s or educational institutes and are run on nonprofit basis. Community radio is a radio station owned, run and maintained by a community and in this case it is being run by MSPICM, an educational institute, which is about capitalizing the incredible potential media can offer to engage people and change their lives. Anna FM was India’s first campus community radio which was launched on February 1, 2004, by the Education and Multimedia Research Centre and the students of Media Sciences at Anna University produced all the programmes. Other noted CRS include ‘Sangham Radio’ in Andhra Pradesh, ‘TARAgram’ in Madhya Pradesh, ‘Radio Bundelkhand’, Mana Radio in Andhra Pradesh and Raghav FM in Bihar to name a few.
Dr. Brijender Singh Panwar, Director, of MSPICM says that the idea of community radio broadcast came when a Delhi-based NGO, One World South Asia signed a contract with the institute in 2008, to setup the network for the running the station. “A stretch between Khandaghat to Solan was selected, where in 15 villages on Karol Hill were selected where programmes were to be broadcast and from these villages itself five reporters were given a chance to run this network. The initial idea was to check the effectiveness of the reach of the programmes and their impact on the local people. For this a time slot of 30 minutes was taken by the All India Radio during which two 15 minutes programmes were aired. A basic stipend was paid to the reporters by the NGO during this period and seeing how successful the run had been the institute applied for the license which helped in starting their own Community Radio after a year in March”.
Dr Panwar states, “Initially a test broadcast was run for one hour in the morning and then one hour in the evening, which was slowly increased to six hours, then twelve and now finally the broadcast time is of 14 hours daily from 7 am to 1 pm and then at 2 pm until 9 pm. The distance covered is 15 kms crow fly radius which covers areas around Solan, parts of Parwanoo, Narag, few areas in Sirmaur district such as Nahan, Saraha, Naina Tikkar, parts in Bilaspur district such as Arki and Darlaghta to name a few. Areas which come in the line of sight do receive our broadcast. He says this confidently as despite the fact that we are a very small institute and there is no way to actually gauge our reach of programmes, but when we receive calls from our listeners we come to know from which area we get the calls”.
The basic thought behind starting the radio programmes was to involve the people of rural areas where outreach of other means of communication was limited or almost nil. Initiatives were taken to involve the people to suggest programmes, discuss their problems, especially those regarding civic amenities or affecting their day to day lives, and any other issues which could be resolved through voicing them on the radio. Issues covered include health, nutrition, problems of community, sports, local talent, women and child oriented programmes as the main focus of the programmes is to create awareness amongst the local community on employment avenues, hygiene, agriculture, environment, health and women related issues. Health issues such as health tips for senior citizens, tips for reducing maternal mortality rate, nutrition for women during pregnancy, discussion on different health related problems and their remedies are aired frequently.
Suman Kashyap, a student from the institute is now employed as a regular with them as after completing her course and due to her exemplary performance she was able to secure a job as a programmer. She says, “In 2009, I completed a six months course in Radio Jockey from MSPICM and then was absorbed by the Institute for their CR broadcast and this also helped me in pursuing further studies as now I am doing the three years course in Mass Communication”. Hailing from a small village Develi Ki Ser, near Solan, she adds, “this is a perfect opportunity for me as it helps me financially as well as pursuing further studies. Students from the institute get a number of opportunities as well as hand on training to secure decent jobs when they pass out from here”. The programming is handled entirely by students who have the liberty of constructing and delivering content which provides exposure to the students and broadens their perception and scope on social problems.
Dr Panwar says that to improve the performance of the students and enhance the quality of the programmes we signed a one year contract in 2009 with an NGO, Drishti, who helped in providing content for community linkage as well as sent a master trainer to guide the students. “Since the start of this broadcast we have been on a very limited budget and on a self help basis as we did not receive any monetary grant from the government or advertisements from the DAVP. It was only after November, 2010 that we have started receiving advertisements from local people and few educational institutes due to the increasing popularity of the broadcast and manage to cover the five minute slot per hour for advertisements, which has helped in some kind of revenue generation. Our monthly expenditure including content, salaries, running cost and variables come to about 75,000 to around one lakh but still efforts are on to run this programme successfully”.
Dr Panwar proudly adds that their institute was among the two CRS educational establishments selected by a team of UNESCO to be surveyed for its outreach and effect. The other being the University of Mumbai who broadcasts for 12 hours, theirs being the longest for 14 hours. Since the content of the programmes is in the hands of the community this team of four members and students from the institute travelled to various villages to talk to the villagers and get their feedback and reactions to the programmes aired.
For a promising future to the students at the institute Dr Panwar hopes that practical training, help in content generation, interaction with rural folk, scripting and editing will help the students secure good jobs as there is immense talent in Himachal and he wishes to nurture them and bring about a change by his small but selfless effort.