Oral traditions of a society are reflections of their culture, art, idea and identities. Ancient societies relied primarily on oral transmissions to pass on their indigenous knowledge and history in myriad forms before the written word dominated. This subtle, but powerful way of sustaining, recording and passing traditions is slowly getting lost in modern times. Permeation of globalization slowly but definitely is channelizing the world into adopting a single global culture. In the course, local communities lose those elements which differentiated one from the other. Thus, the younger generations grow up, alien to their very roots.
Community radios air programmes that are intrinsically interwoven with the lives of local community members. The programmes for, about and by the community members aid in keeping the oral traditions alive, and enable passing these unique traits to the younger generations.
However, as they primarily rely on the word of mouth, oral traditions are subjected to interruption or even permanent loss. Thus, accumulating these in the form of audio files, digitizing and archiving is imperative so as to enhance their accessibility and visibility to the outside world. UNESCO views oral expressions as part and parcel of a nation’s intangible cultural heritage, and audiovisual and audio files are gaining the status of representative cultural elements of a nation, or even a small geographical area within.
UNESCO Resolution on Digital Preservation proposed by the Conference of Directors of National Libraries in June 2001 urges its member nations to adopt appropriate methods to preserve their indigenous digital heritage utilizing the facilities offered by IT industry. Globally, initiatives are taken to compile, digitize and archive the available audio files and upgrade those in degradable forms to new technology and save these for future use.
Following the Policy Guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, community radio stations necessarily store their audio contents for a minimum of three months. However, serious thoughts need to be spared on what happens subsequently. Initiatives must to be planned to encourage digitization and archiving of all audio content produced, and not just for a three month period, in community radio stations pan India. Archiving can help in meticulous arrangement of acquired audio files; enable their easy access and wider visibility and convenient retrieval when required.
Nation-wide awareness and encouragement to promote archiving can definitely bring about changes. Archiving of oral expressions, especially radio archives, should become a practice and be viewed as a contribution towards building a nation’s culture and, as a responsibility to the future.
Department of Journalism & Mass Communication
University of Calicut, Kerala