The UNESCO Chair on Community Media at University of Hyderabad launched the Festival of Democracy: Voter Education through Community Radios in partnership with the Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme of the Election Commission of India on February 22, 2019.

25 Stations from 16 States

With the participation of 25 community radio stations from 16 states of India, the programme envisages decentralized production of about 100 hours of programming in over 11 major languages. The radio programmes will cover, among other things, democracy and the value of the vote, informed and ethical voting, participation of  marginalized sections, and the actual procedures and processes of voting. These will be produced and aired over these community radio stations during the weeks leading up to the forthcoming parliamentary elections in India.

Calling the electoral process in India a ‘maha tyohar’ (festival of festivals), Ms. Padma Angmo, Director of the Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) of the Election Commission of India, urged community radio stations in the country to gear up for the upcoming general elections by unlocking the potential of the medium to promote electoral literacy and voter education.

EC Goals in Sync with CR

She was addressing about 50 community broadcasters from 25 stations across the country, at the inauguration of a three-day national workshop on the campus of the University of Hyderabad. Ms. Angmo pointed out that the goals of the EC to reach out to marginalized segments of the electorate are in alignment with those of community radios. The decentralized approach of community radio, she said, is appropriate with the Commission’s efforts to move away from mass communication and take up more interpersonal and targeted communication addressing specific groups.

Referring to the proposed outreach by community radios a ‘unique idea’, Mr. Ravi Kiran, the joint chief electoral officer of Telangana, said radio was an important tool in the Commission’s work on voter education. He suggested that community radio stations could become effective ambassadors of the Election Commission and take up issues like ethical voting and focus on prospective voters like youth.

Capacity-building of CRs

Mr. N.A. Shah Ansari, the President of the Community Radio Association of India, lauded this initiative of the UNESCO Chair on Community Media and called on the Election Commission to build on the current project to build capacities of many more community radio stations in the country.

Prof. Appa Rao Podile, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad, expressed his happiness about the plan for voter education through community radios. This initiative of the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, he said, is part of the efforts to deepen the University’s outreach to the society and community.  Prof. Vinod Pavarala, the head of the UNESCO Chair on Community Media that anchors this project, pointed out that the participating community radio stations have a track record of working with marginalized communities such as rural poor, small farmers, migrant urban working class, Dalits and tribals, fisherfolk, and women’s collectives and cooperatives.