Rejecting the generally perceived meaning of the word sustainability to mean financial sustainability, CR experts have called for a broader understanding of the term sustainability that also includes social, technological and institutional aspects. This idea was further underlined in the working paper titled ‘CR Sustainability’ written by N. Ramakrishnan (Ideosync Media Combine), Venu Arora (Ideosync Media Combine) and Dr. Ankuran Dutta (Gauhati University) which was presented at the National Consultation on ‘Strengthening Community Radio in India’ on 11th April, 2017.
The core of social sustainability is the creation of a sense of ownership among the community. But the problematic position of CR within the social development paradigm lays emphasis on the station being a development initiative ‘for’ the community, rather than an unfettered platform owned ‘by’ the community. Stuck in the top-down approach, CRS often end up reflecting power hierarchies of the local community and of their parent body. This is further compounded by regulatory processes that only give licenses to registered parent institutions with no mechanism for community handover of the CR station. Restrictions on the content through monitoring and content regulation, limit the level of community engagement with the station.
Several mechanisms can be put in place to ensure social sustainability of a station. For sustained volunteerism, capacity building of a large number of community members of all ages, genders and socio-economic strata can create a large pool of volunteers for the station who can contribute less time per capita without sacrificing on other aspects of their lives. A mechanism for inclusion through gender policies, diversity policies, and a statement of dedication to affirmative action for the underprivileged can provide points of references to the station for self-evaluation of inclusivity parameters.
Institutional sustainability can be strengthened through an articulation of a clear purpose and objective for the CRS and a continual evaluation of its progress and direction. It also helps the CRS to have a clearly codified transparent rules and systems that foreground the community’s primacy in decision making, content creation and feedback. Regular capacity building exercises in technical skills, content development, management and technology along with peer reviews among CR stations can benefit the stations and strengthen their sustainability.
Studies reveal a positive correlation between the financial sustainability of a CRS and the financial strength of its parent body. But these financially sound CRS usually rank low in community ownership and independence. Seeking multiple sources of funding can ensure that the CRS is not overly dependent on its parent body. A revised approach to the CR Support Fund, with the set-up of an autonomous sectoral institution would provide greater transparency and responsiveness of decision-making, faster disbursal of funds, and more sectoral impact in a shorter period. CRS should be encouraged to explore sources of local advertising revenue and the DAVP should streamline the revenues payable to the stations for Government-distributed advertising and content.
To ensure technological sustainability, CRS should check for modularity, technological redundancy and scope for local repair of equipment while buying technology. CRS would benefit from establishing partnerships with local repair services and doing preventive maintenance procedures like regular dusting to take care of their equipment. Regulatory frameworks can reduce tariffs and cost for CR equipment and advocate to expand local manufacture of audio equipment to make technology more affordable for CRS.
Read the entire working paper on CR Sustainability.
Highlights of panel discussion on ‘CR Sustainability’:
A. Shah Ansari (Radio Namaskar) chaired the session on ‘Sustainability Conundrum’ with panelist N. Ramakrishnan (Ideosync Media Combine) Dr. Rachna Saini (Central University of Haryana), Fr. Sebastian Puthen Varghese, (Radio Mattoli) and Inderjeet Grewal (Deputy Director, MIB). N. Ramakrishnan, who presented the paper on the theme, argued that sustainability of a CR should not be constrained to evaluations of financial sustainability but also extend to institutional, social and technological sustainability. Highlighting the importance of deliberations on the sustainability conundrum, N. A. Shah Ansari (Radio Namaskar) said, “All 206 CR stations are struggling on account of sustainability – the nature of challenges maybe different but the issue is crucial.”
For quotes from this panel discussion click on the Facebook icon in the post below: