The government must realize the importance of community radios and support them by providing them with financial support and professional equipment.
The role of Community Radios (SRC) in disseminating critical information during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic is hardly known. Over 322 community radios in India, run by educational institutions called campus radios, radios run by NGOs and radios run by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, took up the challenge of connecting with their communities by giving out relevant information. , creating awareness, confidence and motivation among the masses. deal with the serious situation.
Although most community radio stations struggled to survive due to the treatment of the mother-in-law in terms of allocating funds through projects, the unavailability of advertising from the Bureau of Outreach & Communication and advertisements from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, these community radios The radios did not fail to fulfill their social responsibility at a time of the national crisis.
The Community Radio Association of India (CRA), the recognized body of community radio stations in the country, undertook a survey and based on information and data received from 150 community radio stations, it It was observed that the most important need of vulnerable sections of the population was for credible information about the pandemic in local languages and dialects and how they could protect themselves from it.
In the early days of the pandemic, the CRS answered the following questions: What is Covid-19 and what are its symptoms / signs of spread? What precautions should I take? Why have containment and curfews become necessary? What should people do to stop the spread? How many cases have been reported in each region? “
Community radio teams across the country have collated responses to advisories issued by district and state governments from time to time. Radio journalists interviewed doctors and experts and broadcast them prominently. Information based on “Do’s and Don’ts” was shared with the public. Data provided by the information and public relations, health, district and state disaster management, and police departments were released regularly. Community radio broadcast time ranged from 12 to 24 hours per day.
Initially, only 50% of the content released was related to Covid-19, but as the situation worsened and the lockdown was enforced, the content was exclusively related to the pandemic. When the crisis was at its height, stations broadcast special awareness programs, appeals for authorities to stay home and adhere to government guidelines to fight the virus. Almost all community radio stations have faced several challenges. The curfew was strictly enforced, so the labor shortage was felt because the movements of many community radio reporters were restricted. In many places, they were not given curfew passes to reach independent studios, and radio operations were handled by one or two community reporters who worked in long shifts.
Many radio reporters worked from home sending their reports by mail and Whatsapp. Recorded voice clips of local MALs, community leaders, celebrities, district magistrates, police superintendents, doctors and experts asking community members to stay home and observe social distancing were recorded by phone and sent by mail and Whatsapp to the studios which were then broadcast on the radio.
The jingles were created in studios or uploaded from common sources with celebrity appeal through popular songs and posts to raise awareness of the danger of the virus and its prevention. Some community radios innovated new methods of virtual broadcasting where community reporters sent their contributions from their homes and no one was present in the studio, but the radio broadcast was continuous.
Community radios served as a bridge between the district administration and community members. All relevant information and messages were transmitted by journalists from community radio stations. Community radios received a lot of feedback via live programmers, telephony and public messages which were duly shared with the administration and the solution of the problems was communicated to the public. Concerns about people with disabilities, the elderly and the economically poor were also raised.
Community radios also regularly broadcast programs on health awareness, community participation, motivation, positivity, parenting, nutrition, fitness, talent connect, Junior RJ connect, homemakers connect, culinary programmers, sharing ideas on how to get kids involved, creative practices, yoga for everyday, inspiring stories and information to ask for help and support from each other at this crucial time. Some community radios have connected with the underprivileged by providing information on the measures taken by the government and local NGOs to provide them with financial assistance, food and health services with “Free-Doc-Tele Consulting”, where doctors were available to help people in consultation on any type of health problem and mental health related issues.
Many community radio stations have shared auto-corona test evaluations on their blogs to tell people not to get confused and confuse seasonal illness with Covid-19 and to get tested for the virus.
A pledge document was released, digitally, in which people of all ages pledged to stay home for a healthy future for all and share how they were using their time in isolation. Responses received from various community radios indicated that they had become an authentic source of information and a means of entertaining the community as a whole during the crucial period of self-isolation.
Community journalists, with their vigilant approach, also dismantled false information disseminated by special interests in their communities. They would check the suspicious news with officials first and release the correct version. As workers migrated from cities to villages, community radios, especially those operating from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, played a constructive role in disseminating proven information about their location. path.
Community radio stations maintain the morale of peer stations by sharing information through Whatsapp and other computer platforms and other audio content in various languages. CRS produced and shared creative content in the form of jingles, poems and folk songs in different languages and dialects, giving diversity to their content. Unfortunately, the contribution of community radios has not been properly recognized and appreciated. Community radio reporters were not invited to participate when the Prime Minister interacted with commercial radio jockeys. The Community Outreach Department of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has not published any advertising campaigns for community radio stations in the past two years. The unpaid contributions of the previous four to five years have not been paid to date. The various ministries have totally ignored the CRS when formulating their communication plans for the management of Covid-19 and other health-related campaigns.
Considering the role played by community radios across India, they should be recognized along with other media modes and should enjoy the same status enjoyed by other media organizations and media persons. Community radios across the country stand ready to help during the third wave of the pandemic. We hope that the government and other concerned authorities will realize the important contribution of community radio stations in this national crisis and help support community radios by providing them with financial support and professional facilities to function better in the times to come.
(The author is the President of the Community Radio Association of India. The opinions expressed are personal.)