Holy Cross College’s Community Radio service helps to bridge underprivileged families in the vicinity.
Ten years after it was inaugurated, Tiruchi’s Holy Cross College Community Radio (HCCCR) 90.4 MHz continues to reach out to a small circle of listeners with programmes in Tamil that are a mix of public service messages and student journalism.
“Most of our students are from rural areas and first-generation learners. Once they are exposed to the radio, and get trained in broadcasting, they pick up lots of self-confidence. When they listen to their own voice on radio, they are just taken up,” says Sister Bridget Chelladurai, who has been in charge of the radio at Holy Cross College for the past two years.
With a transmitter that caters to a radius of around 5 to 6 kilometers around the college, HCCCR’s listeners are mostly based in the slums of Jeevanagar, Dharmanathapuram, Kalnayakan Street and Kolathamedu.
Besides in-house orientation, the station’s staff members have been trained by Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia in New Delhi.
The programmes are broadcast in two repeat shifts, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The main challenge in maintaining listener interest, says assistant station manager M. Geethalakshmi, is in creating content completely devoid of commercial and political themes.
“When we started out, most of the listeners would ask why we didn’t have film songs. But we have tried to change their tastes to other programmes. We have managed to employ some 5 people from the community to work exclusively for the radio, who are paid separately for their services,” she says.
Geethalakshmi herself is an example of women’s empowerment triggered by the community radio service. A high school graduate, Geethalakshmi became interested in broadcasting and interned in HCCCR before she was appointed as its assistant training manager.
She is also pursuing higher education at Holy Cross College.
“I stay in Jeeva Nagar, which is very close to the college. So I walk to work everyday,” says Geethalakshmi, who formally joined the service in 2008. “My husband works as a turner and has been very supportive since the beginning.”
Travelling in an aeroplane for the very first time and addressing a national-level meeting on community radio are some of her proudest moments related to HCCCR.
The radio’s schedule includes programmes on health, sanitation, cookery, education, employment, market and gold rates.
For S. Arulraj, F.M. station manager, community radio production is more difficult than that of a commercial service because of the many restrictions on the material.
“Everything has to be more sober and subtle,” says Arulraj, who started out in animation before switching over to audio production. “As we cannot use sound clips from film songs, we have to create our own short musical interludes.”
In 2008-09, HCCCR conducted ‘Pudhiya Jananam’ (New Birth), a Science for Women project commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi with a grant of Rs. 16 lakhs. The programmes were targeted at raising awareness among women of Jeeva Nagar and Dharmanathapuram on subjects like science, health and hygiene.
India had only 180 operational community radio stations as on May 1, 2015, according to a study published by Factly.com. They were mooted first in 2002, when they were restricted to educational institutions. Since 2006, non-governmental organisations and other grassroots bodies in agriculture and social services have been allowed to start community radio stations.
The projected growth of community radio has yet to take off because of excessive licensing and centralised government control, say analysts.
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News Source - The Hindu