November 2006

The Hindu Media Resource Centre (thmrc)

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 THMRC is an interface between experts of diverse field and media professionals with a prime objective to outreach general public using mass media communication systems as a tool.

Communication tools to reach masses
Every communication tool has its own power to reach specific target group. When the targeted audience is diversified their taste, age, status, ambiances also becomes diversified. Hence it becomes imperative to make use of various communication tools and various strategies to complete the communication cycle and achieve the multiplier effect. The article showcases a dissemination activity, which explains the role of various communication media and their effectiveness when they become complimentary to each other. On the other hand the study also highlights the importance and need for face-to-face or group discussion for reinforcement, as the impact becomes visible and sustainable.

The Hindu Media Resource Centre (THMRC)
The M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) located in Chennai is a Non Government Organisation having a mandate, to impart pro-nature, pro-poor, pro-women orientation to a job led economic growth strategy in rural areas harnessing science and technology for environmentally sustainable and socially equitable development. MSSRF established The Hindu Media Resource Centre (THMRC) in 1998 with the generous support from The Hindu Group of Publications. THMRC is an interface between experts of diverse field and media professionals with a prime objective to outreach general public using mass media communication systems as a tool. The mass media communication systems that are networked by THMRC include radio, television, print and the web. It includes community radio (CR), satellite commercial private television network, cable network, neighbourhood journals, community newspapers, village resource centres (VRC) and online groups.

Strategies to reach the media
To face the above issues and to create space for articles based on sustainable agriculture, THMRC consistently organises media workshops, millennium lectures, public forum and media tours in addition to production of documentary films and maintenance of website ( These strategies facilitate media professionals to have in-depth discussion with the scholars in their respective domain.

Mannin manam – radio progr-amme
As one of the programme activity, THMRC organised a media workshop ‘Radio and Sustainable Agriculture’ which addressed the radio medium to brainstorm about sustainable agriculture. The programme officers of All India Radio (AIR) of the state of Tamil Nadu, handling agriculture programme participated in the media workshop.The scholars of MSSRF enlightened the AIR officials about the issues and challenges that need to be addressed by the radio media.

The outcome of the workshop was to produce half an hour programme for 53 weeks titled ‘Mannin Manam’ meaning ‘flavour of the soil’ to be broadcast in the state network of AIR. It was agreed to identify programmes, based on the needs of the target audience specifically. The basic terms that were decided to be followed for making the programme are as follows:

• MSSRF shall provide content for the programme to be made by All India Radio (AIR).
• The content shall be based on the needs of the target group namely the agricultural community.
• As Public information shall be the prime objective, THMRC of MSSRF shall coordinate, content relating to sustainable agriculture by networking with the all the resource organisations and persons such as NGOs, government departments, panchayat raj institutions, developmental activists and like-minded people as per the requirement of the programme in addition to the scientists of MSSRF.
• The content shall be need based, location specific and timely.
• Since the conceptualisation of content would be done using the bottom-up approach the community representatives shall be involved from planning to broadcast
• All India Radio shall take the responsibility of professional production of programme and broadcast of the same.
• Feedback for the programmes and immediate action in providing guidance and clarification shall be the format of production.

Findings of the research on usage of mass media
It would be interesting to note and quote the author’s PhD thesis titled ‘Impact of Social Welfare Schemes on Rural Women through Mass Media programmes with Reference to Tamil Nadu’. The thesis analyses the role of mass media communication systems and the programmes, which have been broadcast / telecast / published, having the content on the social welfare schemes of Tamil Nadu government for the benefit of rural women community. The access, availability of the media, life style of the community, their media listening habits, the ambiance during listening, the understanding of the given information, the impact of the same are discussed and documented.

The below mentioned are the findings relevant to the audio visual media pulled out from the overall findings, which became the basis for identifying innovative strategies to create loyal audience while making of the programme:

• The rural community listens to radio programmes in the morning and watch television in the evening. On an average four hours in a day is spent by a listener/viewer in listening/viewing the media
• The Audience Research Reports (2005) of AIR and Doordarshan indicate that viewership is high for the entertainment programmes in comparison to the information based. The study reveals the reasons as: a) information-oriented programmes do not sustain the interest of the audience b) the sets, costumes and the language of the interviewer and expert are alien which, in most of the cases, are not down to earth.
• Impersonal way of communication reflecting no rapport between the target group and the media.
• Continuous talk with out proper visuals or demonstrations
• Contents not being context specific
• Feed back being given in the subsequent programme, which may not be viewed by many who viewed the previous programme.
• Programmes being presented as hardcore and not as infotainment
• No scope for recap or reinforcement periodically.

Information needs assessment
Based on the above findings THMRC of MSSRF and All India Radio invited Panchayat Raj leaders and Self help group leaders from the district to identify the information needs. The content crew briefed them about the 53 weeks broadcast in the state network of AIR. The methodology and approach was communicated. The members who attended the interaction session were requested to be in regular contact both with the programmers and with other listeners. On the same day a ‘Radio Club’ was established, which consisted of listeners of the programmes as members, to take forward the project and exchange ideas among themselves. The members promised to listen to the programme consistently. A production methodology was accordingly formulates as follows:

• content planning: During the needs assessment meeting representatives from all the districts who has potential and interest in programme making were identified and involved in the content planning and development. The plan gave space for updating information and also for adding on to the current topical information.
• Field based production: The production crew consisting of AIR and THMRC traveled far and wide to record the voices of the unheard living even in the remotest corners of the state.
• Immediacy in responding: The remedial guidance and clarifications from the resource persons/scientists were broadcast in the same episode. In addition to the bottom up participatory approach, feedback inclusion and response to the queries were also broadcast in the same episode.
• Format of the programme: Much care was taken to broadcast location specific, demand driven content. Hardcore information was converted into small slogans and jingles. The thirty-minute programme had many voices and experiences of the community to sustain the interest of the programme. One self-help groups’ experience became a lesson to the other. Each success story was accommodated to function as a motivating factor for the other.
• Rapport between the media and community: The information broadcast on the happenings in each of the districts was used as input for group discussions among the ‘radio club’ members, which resulted in meaningful feedback. The interesting feedbacks were incorporated in the programme for the benefit of the others. The regular correspondence among the media and the commu-nity brought out a sense of belongingness and ownership of the programme and the content without getting disturbed by private satellite television channels. On the other hand interesting promos with the details of forth coming programmes were broadcast to create new audience while retaining the regular listeners.
• Inter-personal communication: To add value to the radio media programmes, other medium of communications were also used. As illiteracy and poor comprehension are the major impediments towards community empowerment, it was decided to make use of the resource persons and the knowledge workers located in the site offices of MSSRF. The knowledge workers are literate youths or semi literates interested in the welfare of the society. After the broadcast of programme, the resource persons and the knowledge workers would lead the group discussion. Clarifications with location specific interesting information would be discussed in such a way the community understands the content very clearly. It is the researchers experience that when media programmes are followed by face- to-face or group discussion, the communication cycle becomes complete and the impact of adopting those information gained through this broadcast becomes phenomenal.

Role of ‘village knowledge centres’

The ‘village knowledge centres’ (VKC) established by MSSRF was converged with the radio media programme to great extent. MSSRF has 12 site offices in the districts of Tamil Nadu with VKCs. VKC, is a place where all the communication systems like computer, Internet, radio, wireless and public address system are available for the usage of the community. The community is trained to access and make use of the systems for information empowerment. All the site offices were requested to inform the community about the broadcast on sustainable agriculture. Other medium like posters and handouts were also synergised to remind the community about the radio programme and highlight the crux of the contents broadcast in the radio media.

A research on  ‘Mannin Manam’
The programme ‘Mannin Manam’ was broadcast by the AIR, for 53 weeks (one year). After six months of broadcast, postgraduate media science students of Anna University took up a brief study for their dissertation, on the impact of this radio programme on the target audience. The audience research report of AIR, 2003, before the broadcast of ‘Mannin Manam’ illustrating the agricultural programme viewership was taken as secondary data. The researchers interviewed the members of radio club, community representatives involved from, planning to broadcast and also people who had listened a few episodes and those who did not listen at all.

The findings based on listeners

• The audience who listened was well informed about the happenings and issues in their location in addition to other districts.
• The additional regular livelihood micro enterprises tips were liked by one and all.
• The establishment of micro enterprises and their success had motivated others to initiate eco-friendly endeavors.
• As marketing issues involved small-scale business was well discussed in the broadcast the communities were conscious while deciding their eco friendly projects.
• The communities were aware of the schemes and projects designed by the government.
• Explanation of Right to Act gave mental courage to demand their rights and information from the concerned.
• The information converted as jingles and slogans were remembered by the community
• The interaction and group discussion facilitated at the PRIs and at site offices helped the women to come out of shyness and gain confidence
• There were alternative media available for the community who had missed the opportunity to listen to the broadcast on the stipulated date and time
• The regular visit of the media to the interior districts gave warmth and understanding in the minds of the community
• Normally women used to seek information from the members of self-help group and at the panchayat offices. The feedback built in programme and the proximity of the production crew gave another avenue and source of information
• There were incidences to quote that the issues and complaints projected in the media, were immediately attended.
• The promos, the posters, or the timely announcement in the public address system could keep the listeners attentive to listen the programme with out fail.
• The community which has listened the programme became source of information to the others who missed or do not have access and/or affordability to the media.

It is certain that sustained efforts using all the medium of communication in an integrated way would yield enormous effects. The prime objective of the media to inform, educate and entertain the people would also become meaningful. The participatory approach and information at the right time would certainly create audience glued to the media with out getting distracted with mere entertainment programme, which has only commercial motive. g

Wireless  rural connectivity conference and hands-on workshop in Lahore

P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) organised a Rural Networking conference and Hands-on Workshop on Nov 15 – 16, 2006 in Lahore in collaboration with Cisco Systems, Punjab IT Board and, Intel supported by the Ministry of Information Technology Government of Pakistan, BytesForAll and FOSSFP: Free and Open Source Software Foundation of Pakistan. This conference wasfirst of its kind in Community Wireless Networking initiative in Pakistan. With a strong list of foreign and local speakers on issues related to Information and Communication for Development (ICT4D), the  conference has disseminated knowledge to a very diverse audience from all sectors of society. This conference provided an opportunity for Pakistan to learn and benefit from the experiences of such community wireless networking projects deployed at various locations worldwide.

The participants of the conference and workshop extended their appreciation in receiving first hand knowledge about wireless networking and community radio. They also expressed concern that the Government of Pakistan should extend Community Radio licenses to communities and NGO’s as has been recently legislated and allowed by neighboring country India. The event ended with an ending note by Jehan Ara that soon P@SHA and its various partners will carry out further activities throughout the country promoting such initiatives that extend various emerging technologies for the benefit of the citizens of Pakistan.

Acknowledgement: Fouad Riaz Bajwa, BytesForAll Network, South Asia



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