I was walking past the lane nearby, with my headphones on. As I tuned onto a radio channel, I was welcomed with a soft music. Suddenly, a thought flashed in my mind. Is radio all about soft music? Is it all about entertainment? The perquisition for its answer began.
I scratched my head and thought hard. What more could radio contribute to? Finally, I remembered how radio would be my savior from boredom, whenever there would be a problem with the electricity at home. The best thing is that it requires no direct electrification unlike other electronic media. Well, the cost of a single transistor is less than even 3 dollars or 2 euros! With its enormous reach which overpowers other media, it has the power to mould people’s life for the better by connecting with them.
It can save lives, provide a platform and voice, bring accountability, and educate to help people develop materialistically and holistically.
Take for example, the case of Democratic Republic of Congo. The radio stations which had mushroomed in this poor country had smoothed the political tensions. ‘Radio Okapi’ advocated free and fair elections and encouraged more than 36% of voters, according to a study.
Does radio have any role to play in development of the society?
Development is commonly looked upon in economic, political, social, judicial and environmental and now even in democratic terms. Interestingly, radio contributes to all.
‘SW Radio Africa’ in South Africa maintained the system of checks and balances and continuously made people aware of discrepancies in politics and judiciary. ‘Planet Ark’ in Australia helped to communicate environmental messages to make people sensitive to their surroundings.
Radio even helped save lives in Haiti during the earthquake in 2012. The radio sets shipped at the St. Antoine’s School enabled teachers to access to shortwave broadcasts.
Radio doesn’t limit its role to just warning as it also contributes to post-tragedy needs. More than 30 counselors catered to 13,000 displaced people on ‘Dalka FM’, reducing the trauma caused in Aceh, Indonesia due to Tsunami. In the countries like Ghana, Mali and Uganda farmers got to know about new farming methods. The new variety of rice called New Rice of Africa (NERICA) proved to very beneficial for subsistence farmers.
At this point, I wondered how come radio manages to do all these things? The answer was that the radio channels work on various levels like- National, International, Regional, Sub-Regional, Local or Community radio. The radio on one hand, at National and International levels act as big media, influencing many with its ability congruent to Magic Multiplier approach of Marshall Mcluhan and on the other hand, it works at the grassroots level with local people. The National channels, be it FM or AM, mainly disseminate information about policies or advancements. But, it is the community radio channels which deal with problems more specifically and help in their solutions.
Community Radio gives a voice to the community they serve to, with programmes in local languages, respecting local culture, traditions and interests. It facilitates dialogue within the community. Community Radio stations fill the gap left by national and commercial media, reaching local audiences with subjects which the national media ignores. In India, the first community-based radio station licensed to an NGO was launched in 2008, when Sangham Radio in Pastapur village, Medak district, Andhra Pradesh was started by two Dalit women.
Today, it is seen as a success story that narrates how a community radio can educate villagers on biodiversity, crop patterns, nutrition, health, culture, sovereignty etc. “Every woman member of the various Sanghams contributed Rs. 5 each to make the dream of running their own radio station come true. They can now articulate their joys, fears, history, culture and also the fundamental agricultural issues.”
In India, IGNOU’s own Gyan-Vani (Educational FM radio channel) extends mass media support for education, suited to local needs. Gyan Vani stations operate as media cooperatives, with programmes contributed by different educational institutions, NGOs and institutions like IGNOU, NCERT, UGC, IIT etc.
The message developers have slowly started to recognize the potential of this medium. Classic examples of development have made them optimistic about their efforts.
That was an eye-opener for me! Until now radio was not more than a time-pass. Indeed, radio has the quality to penetrate the illiterate. It requires minimal setup and is speedy in dissemination. Now, because the messages are largely informal, people tend to believe the messages. But still, many of its capabilities are untapped and should be exploited well for the better of the populace.
After this information rich session, I fell in love with this medium. Forever. So, did it mesmerize you too?
“In the societies of bottom billion, the key media are
probably the radio channels”
-Paul Collier, 2007