Weaving the waves

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Community radio is not only an interesting development communication tool but also how a democratising process, which promotes community participation ensuring improved information flow of relevant issues. The challenges faced by many of the community radio projects are not only how to run the projects effectively, but also to fight the archaic bottlenecks of bureaucracy, including the licensing system. When the national broadcasting agencies were opening up the waves for the public, it was with the purpose of generating commercial revenue, and thus was born the era of private broadcasters.

Radio Sagarmatha in Nepal led a 5 year legal battle to help the enactment of Broadcasting Act in 1994, which led to opening up the air waves to NGOs or private individuals and organisations for the purpose of education and culture. India can learn from both Sri Lanka and Nepal for creating enabling environments, to increase opportunities for more community radio stations to begin operations. However, creativity and innovation has led to at least four projects in India to use alternative technologies to begin reaching out, as in the case of Namma Dhwani in Budikote, Karnataka.

When we started the research for this issue, the stories seemed all too scattered. But with many innovative projects being implemented, the common thread that emerged was the empowerment of communities that had been part of a project. Being part of the local content development, communities learnt rapidly the technical and management issues, sharing relevant information width the communities themselves. Spearheading it were some international organisations, chief of which have been UNESCO. A lot of focus has been on using the powerful radio medium, for development communications.

Packing so many good and challenging projects into a single issue was our biggest challenge. We wanted to tell the whole story, and of course two or three pages are not enough to justify the innovations, creativity and community inputs for making this medium their own, in spite of an ambience ridden with archaic and controlling laws. In this issue we have covered a number of experiments covering many countries in Asia, where the challenges have been diverse.

A community radio project has tremendous resilience to survive. However, the need to continue developing, training and most importantly work toward self-sustainability is clear. Most donors have provided assistance for technical (broadcast equipments) and training, and some receive funding for daily operations. Community fund-raisers and membership fees, apart from advertisements are ways by which community radio projects have survived.

We do hope you enjoy reading this issue and share with us information about other projects that you know are best practices.

Ravi Gupta

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