08 marzo 2008

India, in arrivo anche le emittenti statali?

Outlook of India racconta della voglia di decentralizzazione manifestata da alcuni stati della federazione indiana, che ritengono troppo centralizzata la funzione informativa di All India Radio. Le licenze FM concesse a livello locale non riescono a soddisfare l'ambizione dei singoli stati, che vorrebbero dar luogo a enti radiofonici regionali. Secondo il periodico online cinque stati - Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Karnataka - avrebbero già fatto richiesta di licenza al regolatore indiano TRAI.

On A New Wavelength 

Why states want to run their own radio stations: AIR does not highlight schemes and achievements of the states. A dedicated radio station would be focused on regional/local issues. Its a medium that requires minimum investment but has immense reach. Five states - Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Karnataka - have applied for licences.


"It'll be an extension of Nitish Kumar's weekly durbar. Something the CM is giving top priority." Rajesh Bhushan, Secy, PR, Bihar

"Delhi CM Sheila Dixit is keen to take her message to the people on a dedicated FM station." Uday Sahay, Director, PR

"Azad Hind Radio will start once we get a licence. We want to instil patriotism in people." Shivraj S. Chauhan, Madhya Pradesh CM

Once there was All India Radio, beamed down from on high. Then came FM, when radio went a bit gaga. Now the broadcasting scene seems set to witness a third wave, as five states have expressed their desire to start their own radio stations and FM channels. Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka and Punjab have put in applications to this effect with the Union information and broadcasting ministry. AIR, the national broadcaster, they feel, does not do justice to region-specific issues. Hence the need for a locally-run and dedicated station.
The states have been pushing for their own radio stations despite a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that the "broadcasting media should be under the control of the public as distinct from the government". What has triggered the current interest in radio are indications that the central government might recast its policy. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), a few days ago, had even hinted that it was undertaking an exercise to explore the feasibility of allowing states to operate their own radio stations. In fact, anticipating the I&B ministry's approval, some states have even tentatively named their radio stations. So there is the Karnataka government's Namma Banali (Our Voice) and MP's Azad Hind Radio, both waiting for frequencies to be allocated to them.
Chief ministers like Delhi's Sheila Dixit and Bihar's Nitish Kumar are convinced that the humble radio—with its extensive rural-urban reach—is a better disseminator of news and information than television. Dixit wants to start an FM channel and Nitish's media advisors feel it is the best medium to educate farmers in the state. "Our own radio," says Rajesh Bhushan, secretary, public relations, Bihar, "can give area-specific news to farmers on weather and best farming practices. It can also disseminate information on local haats (fairs) and schemes run by the government far more effectively than any other medium. We even plan to start teaching English through radio for primary school students. The radio will also be an extension of the CM's weekly durbars."
Gung-ho about the proposed project, the Bihar government has even worked it out in great detail. The main focus areas have been identified: dissemination of information regarding government schemes; encouraging local participation by the communities and revival of local and folk art forms. Costs have also been computed. The setting up of the radio station, including equipment and installation charges, is estimated at Rs 4.8 lakh. The cost of the studio will be another Rs 2.3 lakh. Operational costs are pegged at Rs 47,000 a month.Monthly revenue has been worked out at Rs 50,000. Incidentally, there are eight state-run radio stations awaiting clearance in Nalanda, the CM's constituency.
The Delhi government's plans too are awaiting a go-ahead from the I&B ministry. According to Uday Sahay, director, publicity and public relations, "The Delhi CM is keen to take her message to the people on a dedicated FM station run by the state. Many schemes aimed at housing for the poor and the girl child don't get sufficient airtime and the CM is keen that it goes out on radio."
MP's efforts to have a radio station of its own is chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan's initiative."We thought it was time to instil feelings of patriotism in our people by using radio. So we are starting Azad Hind Radio once we get the licence. After all, radio is for the aam aadmi who is more dependent on the radio than television," says the CM. The state's information commissioner Ajay Srivastava elaborates on the CM's patriotism theme: "We would like to run a radio station with a dedicated patriotic theme on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Revolt of 1857." Of course, MP is also due to go to polls at the end of the year. Azad Hind Radio has already been sanctioned Rs 1 crore from the state exchequer. The state plans to recover working costs and even earn a small profit from local advertising.
Rajasthan too is giving shape to its broadcasting ambitions to promote community radio. Karnataka is going to the extent of picking and choosing government-friendly ngos to transmit its message. The state will be putting in two-thirds of the finances. In Punjab, information minister Vikram Singh Majitha is fairly clear: "We want a totally Punjabi channel with all the programming in the local language."
You can't fault his logic. But professionals who want the medium free of the state's clutches are viewing the move with scepticism. Watchdog Community Radio Forum, for instance, is perturbed by the state invasion into the medium. "It is an entry through the backdoor by state and local governments into the community radio space," says one member of the forum. "It is a deeply sinister move which will completely undermine the credibility and worth of community radio. Community radio is radio of, by and for the community, and 'state-run community radio' is not only a contradiction in terms, it will be little more than a mouthpiece for the party in power, an instrument for political propaganda."
Even if we discount this alarmist position, do the people really want to listen to the state propagate its message? Don't they want entertainment of the filmy kind, with perhaps a little bit of news thrown in? Programming then will be the key—the right mix of information and entertainment—now it remains to be seen if state-run radios will be up to the task.

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