Current Status of Community Radio in Assam

Community radio is a type of radio service offering a third model of radio broadcasting beyond AM (Amplitude Modulation) Radio i.e. Public Service Broadcaster Radio or All India Radio (AIR) and Commercial FM Radio services. Community radio stations can serve specific geographic communities and communities of interest. They broadcast content which is popular and relevant to a local/specific audience but which may often be overlooked by commercial or mainstream mass-media broadcasters. Community radio stations are supposed to be operated, owned and driven by the communities they serve.

Assam Community Radio

Community Radio is a non-commercial radio service that provides a way to facilitate individuals, groups, and communities to share their own stories, experiences, and participate in a media rich world, so as to enable them to become active producers and contributors of media. Around the world, community radio performs the role of a medium for the community and voluntary sector, civil society, agencies, NGOs & citizens to cooperate to further community development and broadcasting objectives.

In Britain, the concept of community-based services can be traced back to the early 1960s. Thereafter, various unauthorized pirate radio stations (such as East London Radio and Radio AMY: Alternative Media for You) developed the idea further. As pirate stations escalated during the late 1970s and the early 80s, these stations were connected by the broadcasting specifically to minority migrant. Although “community radio” remains synonymous with “pirate radio” for some people in Britain, most minority migrant stations focused mainly on specific musical genres and were operated for-profit making. Community radio stations in Britain are operated on a non-commercial basis, with community ownership and community control built into their structure.

The Growth of Community Radio in India

The campaign to legalize the operation of community radio started in the middle of 1990s in India. It was soon after the Supreme Court of India ruled in its historic judgment of February 1995 that “airwaves are public property”.

India’s first campus ‘community’ radio, launched on 1st February 2004, was Anna FM. This station is being run by Education and Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC), and all programs are produced by the students of Media Sciences at Anna University, Chennai.

Although around 190 community radio stations are in operation in India presently, in Assam the community radio scenario is still in the grass-root or an infant stage. Because till date although several efforts have been put up to establish community radio stations in Assam, but in reality so far, only three community radio stations have got the Wireless Operating License (WOL) in Assam, namely Jnan Taranga, 90.4 FM of Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University, Guwahati, Radio Luit, 90.8 FM of Gauhati University, Guwahati and Brahmaputra Community Radio Station, 90.4 FM, Dibrugarh.

These three community radio stations are doing programs on various aspects of development such as health, agriculture, sanitation, culture, science, law, education, folk music, women, children, gender issues, environment, financial literacy, employment, sports, community voice, rural issues etc. The first community radio station of Assam was established on November, 20, 2010 i.e. the Jnan Taranga, 90.4 FM in the Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University, Guwahati, Housefed Complex. After that the second community radio station of Assam was launched on March,01,2011, i.e. Radio Luit,90.8 FM in the Gauhati University, Guwahati which is till date situated in the premise of Institute of Distance and Open Learning(IDOL), Gauhati University, Guwahati. The third community radio of the state was formally launched in July, 2015 at the Maijan Borsaikia Gaon under Hiloidhari post office in Dibrugarh with the name Brahmaputra Community Radio Station,90.4 FM. Three key words namely Community, Radio and Community Radio have been elaborated in this article.

Jnan Taranga,90.4 FM, KKHSOU,Guwahati:

Jnan Taranga broadcasts for 24 hours regularly. The broadcast schedule consists of Live 8 hours which starts from 9 AM in the morning till 1 PM including complete community based programs like health tips, environment based programs, life of a great person along with birthday wishes, satire and beauty tips. They broadcast content of Jnan Taranga mainly consists of community-based programs. The programs are on subjects like health, sports, career, science, woman, children, agriculture, horticulture, climate change, environment etc. Jnan Taranga did a number of community activities in the recent past. Community Radio Assam Jnan Taranga

One of the noticeable among them is a radio program at a Karbi village, Pamohi. Representatives from the radio station interacted with the tribal people who also presented their folk songs, folk dances, ethnic food etc. They talked about their religious customs, events and social problems faced by them. A community doctor also accompanied our team to the village. As such the villagers asked her about various epidemics faced by them. The doctor gave significant health tips to the community people and the relevance of cleanliness. Jnan Taranga also held a Quiz, poem recitation and singing competition on 9th January, 2015 at an underprivileged school Gyan Setu at Last Gate, Guwahati. A lot of students took part in the event and won a number of prizes.

The first community radio station of North East, Jnan Taranga increased its Live broadcast to 8 hours from 1st January, 2015. Now, daily broadcast of the station starts from 9 AM in the morning till 1 PM which consists of complete community based programs like health tips, environment based programmes, life of a great person along with birthday wishes, satire and beauty tips. Educational broadcast is for one hour i.e. from 1 PM to 2 PM. Our next Live transmission starts from 2 PM to 6 PM which includes our most popular program ‘Monor Khabor’- a Live Phone-In program on different social issues of the community people. The listeners make calls to the station and give their suggestion and valuable feedback on the programs of the station in this program.

Some important programs of Jnan Taranga are—

  • Parampara—Program on folk culture of Assam
  • Topal Topal—Voice of the marginalized people
  • Chinaki Batere Apunar Jatra—Program on Tourism spots and monuments
  • Monor Khobor—Live phone in program
  • Yuva Taranga—Youth Oriented Program
  • Sishu Tirtha—Program on children
  • Hengul Baran—Program on senoor citizens
  • Janajiwan—Program on tribes and ethnic groups
  • Lecheri Butoli—Program on street children
  • Sakhi Sanjeevani – Program on Women’s health

Radio Luit, 90.8 FM, Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam:

During the last five years, Radio Luit endeavored to meet the aspirations of the Gauhati University Community and the people of the surrounding villages by broadcasting various programs. It has been a constant effort on the part of Radio Luit to involve the Community not only in listening various programme but also in production of various programs. Students, Teachers, Employees of the University, their family members, community members from the fringe areas have been actively participating in running the Radio Luit. Radio Luit Gauhati University

The most participating program is ‘Mukoli sora’ (Open Forum), where maximum participation of the Community members is ensured. It is conducted through Live phone-in methods. Phone lines open at 19:00:00 hrs and closes at 20:00:00. On the last Sunday of every month there is another interested program ‘Luitar shrotaa’; where one regular listener is invited to the studio to participate in a live programme and interact with other community members in the last Sunday of every month.

Radio Luit is currently doing a total of 12 hours of broadcast everyday from 8 am to 8 pm out of which a total of 7 hours are live broadcasts and 5 hours are the repeat broadcasts of the previous days’ broadcast. Radio Luit is broadcasting programs on various themes such as health, agriculture, law, education, entertainment, culture, folk culture, science, women, children, food, sports, western music, advertisements etc. It has several programme formats such as talk, drama, feature, audio magazine, interview, panel discussion, live phone in, field programme, Vox populi etc.

The management structure of Radio Luit is very much reflective of the community members be it the student community or the other communities. There is a management committee of radio Luit comprising of members from the university community as well as the other communities. The programs are broadcast in diverse languages such as Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Bodo, English etc.

The following are the important programs of Radio Luit:

  • Aaradhana – Program on Devotional songs.
  • Bigyan Prasanga – Science based Talk.
  • Byaktitwa – Interview (Set piece/Door Stepper) with community members.
  • Bidhan Samidhan – Interview program on legal issues.
  • Sangsthapan – Employment news program.
  • Audio Feature on various issues.
  • Krishi Katha – Discussion/Interview/Field based (mostly studio based).
  • Gawe Bhuye – Field program for rural audiences which may be on music, health, sanitation etc. and the programme is interactive in nature.
  • Luit Sambad – News from inside the university and surrounding areas.
  • Shringer – Live phone in on beauty tips and fashion.
  • Amar Katha – It is a field based interview programme where the announcer can go to any place and can have an interaction with community members. In short, it is a vox populi.
  • Amar Ghar – Another interactive programme where the announcer can go to any particular family and can have a chat with them about an issue.
  • Programs on folk music, old Hindi songs, Assamese songs etc.
  • Aalap – one to one interview programme either set piece or door stepper.
  • Shariram Adhyam – Health related programme either studio based or door stepper
  • Jutire Akhaj – Interview programme on recipes (Set piece/door stepper)
  • Malini – Programme on community women or prominent women in interview format either set piece or door stepper.
  • Sonali Geetor aare aare – Musical narration of a song
  • Tip Se Bani Tippani – Ad promo
  • Boroniya – Field based interactive programme in schools, colleges, university departments etc.
  • Xetu – Book Review
  • Sobi Kotha – Film Review
  • Bikhyon – Panel discussion programme
  • Prajanma – Live phone in interactive programme where a youth is invited to the studio and he or she has an interaction with the anchor as well as the listeners.
  • Quizzeria – Live phone in programme on Quiz
  • Westusic – Programme on western music.
  • Geetali – Feature on music
  • Drama
  • Deoboriya Sangsthapan
  • Kakali – Field based program on children on themes such as rhymes, poems, drama etc.
  • Bandhabi – A series of programs on Women’s’ Health and Nutrition being broadcast by Radio Luit, 90.8 FM, Gauhati University under a project sponsored by the National Council of Science and Technology(NCSTC),Department of Science and Technology(DST), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India in collaboration with Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia(CEMCA),New Delhi. This programme is being done by the various community women.
  • Mukoli Chora – Live phone in program from 7 pm to 8 pm every day.
  • Patrika – Audio Magazine
  • Krira Parikroma – Program on sports
  • ‘Deuka’ – Newly introduced program for the differently-abled people.

Brahmaputra Community Radio Station,90.4 FM (BCRS), Dibrugarh, Assam:

Brahmaputra Community Radio Station is the first civil society led community Radio Station of North-East Region of India. It covered near about 6 lacs population of Dibrugarh and Dhemaji Districts. It broadcast program in five different language and dialects in Assamese, Chadri (Tea Community dialect), Bhojpuri, Mishing (Dialect of Mishing tribes) and Bodo (Language of Bodo community) covering the most marginalized communities of tea garden, island population of River Brahmaputra and general village community as well as slum population of the District. Community Radio Dibrugarh

Currently, Radio Brahmaputra broadcasting 10 hours of programs from Monday-Sunday  covering most of the community issues in health, education, disaster management, financial literacy, domestic violence, gender issues, environment, local culture & tradition etc.

Some important programs of BCRS —

  • Dinlipi — Information based program
  • Aideo Akhol — Cookery based program
  • Mor Jiwonor Katha — Life stories of marginalized people
  • Krikhakar Katha — Fram broadcast
  • Jiwika — Program on Livelihood
  • Rongpuli —Women’s’ Program in Assamese
  • Konmainar Mela — Children’s program etc.

In a nutshell, it can be concluded that the current status of Community Radio in Assam is not very satisfactory in terms of number because of the fact that in comparison to other parts of the country, the community radio scenario is very much lagging behind in Assam with just three community radio stations operating from the state with Wireless Operating Licence (WOL), amongst the 190 community radio stations operating from the country overall. But program wise the three operational community radio stations are fulfilling the actual purpose of community development in the real sense of the term. After the descriptive content analysis of the various programs of the three community radio stations operating from the state, it can be concluded that major issues such as health, agriculture, sanitation, rural infrastructure, community development, folk culture, women, children, law, education etc are being highlighted by means of these programs.

More so, it was very much noticeable after the content analysis that the community radio guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are being very followed by these three community radio stations. For example, in terms of organizational structure, program contents, coverage area, advertisements etc. The organizational structure is very much reflective of the target community, the programs are being done mostly in local languages and dialects, the coverage area is within the stipulated range of 15 kilometers, no commercial advertisements are being broadcast, only advertisements of DAVP are being broadcast, mostly programs are being produced and broadcast by the active community participation, mostly programs are done on development issues, all the three community radio stations of Assam are being run by nonprofit organizations, two are campus based in educational institutions. i.e. Radio Luit, Gauhati University and the Jnan Taranga, KKH State Open University, Guwahat and the one in Dibrugarh being run by NGO.

That was a brief descriptive content analytical survey done on the three community radio stations operating from Assam namely Jnan Taranga, KKHSOU, Guwahati, Radio Luit, Gauhati University, Guwahati and Radio Brahmaputra, Dibrugarh.

Alakesh Das is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism, IDOL, Gauhati University.

He is the Administrative Supervisor at Radio Luit 90.8 FM, Gauhati University.