Date:13th October, 2021

CR stations from 10 Indian states presented their work and the challenges they faced on account of the COVID-19 pandemic today in an online meeting attended by more than 75 CR stations. The public meeting also included civil society members, representatives of the media, and radio enthusiasts from across India.

The event was organized and moderated by Ideosync Media Combine, a New Delhi based communication for social change organization with extensive experience in capacity building and advocacy for the CR sector.

The “Community Radio Symposium – 2021” online event was organized to celebrate and reflect on the contributions made by community radios for the welfare of their communities. Ten community radio stations presented the initiatives undertaken by the CR stations in their respective states during the pandemic. They also highlighted how severely the pandemic had impacted their work.

Speaking at the event, Arti Jaiman, Station Head, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz, who presented the work done by CR stations in Haryana, stressed the importance of community radio in reaching mobile migrant populations who are otherwise missed by public health initiatives.

“Community Radios consciously connect to communities who are not connected to mainstream media,” she noted. She also spoke about the importance of support from local administrations to the local CR stations for a more effective response at such moments.

Father Xavier from Radio Neythal in Allapuzha, Kerala, and Arti Bisht from Henvalvani CR in Chamba, Uttarakhand, spoke about the important role their CRs played in assisting and connecting people who were caught in the COVID lockdown. “Uttarakhand has a lot of outmigration,” Ms.Bisht said. “And the CRs in our state played an important role during the pandemic by helping many people return to their homes.”

Stations located in areas prone to natural disasters put forward the need to have ‘joint live reporting’ between CR stations and state and district administrations. This, they noted, was important for successful early warning and rescue operations during cyclones and floods.

The gathered CR stations also expressed concern over the fact that community radio stations are yet to be recognized officially as part of the media sector. They advocated for the issue of press cards to all CR volunteers and staff members, to enable them to successfully reach out to their communities in times of crisis.

They also reiterated the need for news to officially be allowed on radio, as CR stations are often the primary sources of information for their communities. News broadcasts are not permitted on radio under the current policy.

The symposium was followed by a Community Radio Baithak, a sectoral gathering of CR stations and stakeholder organizations. Speaking at the event, Dr.Vinod Pavarala, Professor & UNESCO Chair on Community Media, University of Hyderabad, said, “If we ever require more proof of how much we need community radio for crisis communication, this period proved that community radio can utilize their proximity with the community, their use of local language, and locally relevant information in the service of the community.”

Dr.Brijender Panwar, the President of the Community Radio Association of India, also addressed the gathering, and expressed the hope that CR stations would be able soon put the pandemic behind them, and constructively engage with each other to strengthen the sector.

The Symposium and the Baithak were part of the “CR Conversations 2021” event, an initiative to bring together community radios across the country to honour and celebrate their efforts; and to deliberate on ways and means to support and strengthen the CR movement around the country.