Regulators

Radio For The Community

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Radio is theater of the mind. Once you get people laughing, they're listening and you can tell them almost anything.

That's the motto of Radio MUST, Socho, seekho, bolo, badlo, chamka do duniya ko, jeeet lo is jahaan ko….

(This motto has been composed into a tune by a few students and recently Shankar Mahadevan very cordially sung it for us)

Community radio - as the name suggests - is radio for the community, by the community and of the community.

Of course, the meaning of the word community is interesting and differs from person to person. Today, in the age of radio revolution, the airwaves may appear to be jam packed, but there is still a lot of space for a community radio.

Essentially in India, the concept of community radio is still very unclear as it was never cultivated. But after the Supreme Court verdict that the airwaves are public property, many licences for community radios are being given all across the country. But still, for us Indians who still can't properly differentiate between traditional radio and the new private radios, community radio is altogether a new concept. Many people will further ask, 'do we really need another kind of radio? Or is there space for such kind of a radio?'

The community radio movement has gained a lot of pace over the years in the US, UK South America and Australia. In places like Bolivia, there are community radios even for minors and are doing pretty well. It makes sense to have a dedicated community radio for say NRIs residing in a English county or a community radio that caters to the specific needs of the farmer community. Basically a community radio is a non profit, non commercial application used to share information among the given community.

The traditional public radio broadcasting service is a strictly guarded and regulated medium of the government to provide information which they think is right. And we have the new players i.e. the private radio broadcasters for whom it's a medium to invest in the long run and make money out of entertainment.

Having stated the different types of radio, we need to understand a very basic thing and that is 'radio par dikhta nahi hai'. One who truly understands this fundamental point will rule the airways. Maybe that's the reason why most of the radio stations in the metros sound the same.

But talking about community radio, in today's world, it has a great role to play in terms of providing correct, precise and useful information to the people on a host of topics. Be it farming practices, garbage management, health consciousness, etc. Sounds pretty serious and gross… But if all this information can be transferred through the radio waves in an entertaining manner, the purpose is served. And that's exactly what you mean by infotainment.

Many universities across the country are now being given licences to operate community radios in their campuses. A community radio service can be heard across a 15 km area as it can have a maximum of 50W transmitter. Anna FM of the Annamalai University, Chennai, was the first campus community radio to be set up in India and it is still doing very well. Many universities have followed but have not been able to match up to the level of broadcast set by Anna FM.

Last year, Mumbai University also got a license to operate an FM community radio from its campus. Not many people have imagined or tried to use the FM radio waves to provide academic information to the people. But Radio MUST @107.8FM (Mumbai University student's transmission) will dare to explore the hidden treasure of infotainment through this community radio. In a city like Mumbai, which already has eight FM stations, what can a simple FM community radio offer or can it make a difference?

With nearly 75 departments in the university, along with 400 colleges in and around Mumbai affiliated to the university, Radio MUST has huge potential. Also, being a part of the sesquicentennial celebrations (150 yrs) of the university, people have great expectations from Radio MUST. With the radio station coming up at the Kalina campus, this FM community radio needs to be handled with care and in an innovative manner.

Here we would like to set a benchmark in terms of the programming. With Mumbaikars already having had a feel of what FM radio is all about, it will be a great challenge at Radio MUST to provide a similar kind of programming and packaging without the popular music.

The content will be sheer infotainment. Information ranging from academic to social issues to civic responsibilities to slum redevelopment to career options to college festivals to exams and more. The possibilities are unlimited. Not just students but even ex students and volunteers can join in the bandwagon to share important and interesting information through this community radio.

We at Radio MUST hope to utilize the radio waves efficiently with a lot of entertainment. This community radio will be a professionally managed non commercial radio and may just turn out to be the nursery for future radio professionals. This radio station will be run by all the students and these students will get a stipend paid by the university for all the work they do. So it becomes a double incentive for all.

We also plan to upgrade out systems in the near future as the colleges affiliated to Mumbai University are spread over a large area geographically. Also, we plan to stream it live on the Mumbai University website for greater coverage.

Already students from various colleges are working on a variety of programs. So you may soon be able to tune in to Munnabhai and Circuit discussing management fundas, Devdas and Chandramukhi talking about HIV AIDS awareness, James Bond talking about careers in forensic sciences. The list is pretty impressive… mixed together with information about exams, results, festivals, college happenings, social messages etc. this will be an open forum for all who want to make this city a better place to live.

And who better than the future of the country, the youngsters, the students, to do the job. With all the rules and regulations for a FM community radio being followed, Radio MUST will become a must for all of us.

Do you have an opinion on brands taking a social stance. Help Pankaj Athawale write the next chapter. Post your thoughts to editor@indiantelevision.com

(The author is Mumbai University FM community radio head Pankaj Athawale)

(The views expressed here are those of the author and Indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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