DHAN Foundation organised a symposium on ‘Governance for advancing development’ between September 11 and 15, 2013 at the Tamukkam grounds, Madurai, which was attended by members from operational 48 Community Radio stations (CRSs) and representatives of two community-based organizations (CBOs). Various dignitaries from the Government and NGOs also participated in the symposium.

A view of the Madurai symposium

In the discussions, the participants raised concerns regarding the production of content, financial aspects of running the stations, and the Government’s role in capacity building of the functional CR stations. They also voiced the idea of networking among regional language stations for content sharing on a regular basis.

The participants were in favour of setting up common portals for community radios and suggested that a regional Google circle could be used for sharing the contents. Among other things, there was consent that networking could help in enhancing the airtime of every station without heavily increasing the cost of running the station. It could also provide as a platform for co-learning and sharing of best practices among the communities on all aspects including technological challenges and cost effective adaptations.

The sharing of folksongs recorded by CR stations was also extensively deliberated as this would not only generate bigger volume of shared music, but also enhance popularity of talent across the CR stations.

The Symposium touched upon many key issues and aspects regarding CR stations on a pan- Indian level. The various stakeholders present at the five-day long symposium put together a declaration for policy advocacy, and for further action by for government as well as the practitioners:

1. The government when reframing policy guidelines need to have clearly defined terms for having local sponsorship for business / entrepreneurs in CRS

2. Government order for access to all CRS in producing programs on government schemes.

3. The government has to come out with defined time-frame for the processes involved in obtaining licenses. This will enthuse aspiring new entrants to take up CRS

4. If the spectrum fee is not waived totally, at least the government could bring the fee to the earlier structure thus rendering more clarity to the spectrum fee.

5. The government could offer discounted spectrum fees for CRS having CBOs in their management.

6. Program produced using public funds and have government ownership can be shared among the CRS.

Naguveer Prakash