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Kalanjiam Samuga: Struggling to stay tuned


Community Radio Station Kalanjiam Samuga is facing financial constraints as cost incurred to run the station is exceeding its annual revenue. Station also seeks popular entertainment content to mix it with its educative content.

The community radio service here comes with a name as quaint as the scent of earth dampened by the first rains. ‘Kalanjiam' community radio station (Kalanjiam Samuga Vanoli) crackled to life two years ago in a small station tucked away in the inner recesses of Vizhundhamaavadi village near Vedaranyam.

For two years, the path traversed by this initiative has been both rugged and less rugged, all at once. Kalanjiam Samuga Vanoli struck the airwaves under the Madurai-based DHAN foundation, with a mandate of impacting change in poverty and social issues; disaster information dissemination and community empowerment.

Today, it continues to float at 90.8 M.Hz to cover communities around a 5-km radius.

According to Naguveer Prakash, project executive, Kalanjiam Samuga Vanoli, community radio stations are built on the democratic format – radio of the people, for the people and by the people. It is in this principle that the mandate of community participation in content conception, development and management stands.

Challenges remain and, at times, get daunting by the day.
“When we applied for a license in 2007, there were barely five cable channels here , and today, there is a proliferation,” says Mr.Prakash But the couch-potato culture is still alien here and community views television sparingly.

The endeavour is not without financial constraints. Kalanjiam incurred an annual expenditure of Rs.2 lakh last year, and annual revenue of Rs.75,000.

But, barring a negligible amount, the revenue was predominantly sourced by Kalanjiam by providing video coverage for events such as festivals and weddings.
Volunteer retention is another issue, close to nine of its former volunteers who trained in content production at Kalanjiam have, now, set up their own video centres.

A visible intervention of Kalanjiam has been in the creation of a public sphere for women from the neighbouring villages.
For the team of three girls engaged in the sole management of the station, and the six women, staffing the administrative committee, Kalanjiam has provided them with a public space that was inconceivable otherwise.

The struggle for community radio service in India has been a long-drawn one.

A fight waged for more than a decade and a half, and saw fruition with the announcement of new community radio station policy guidelines by the government in 2006. The State had been weary of community radio initiatives on grounds that it could be used to spread ‘seditious' content, and till date, news content including discussions on current affairs is not allowed to be relayed on community radio. However these stations can receive private donations, as opposed to private sponsors.

What Kalanjiam needs is popular content to fill in as entertainment and to intersperse with its educative content.

"The Copyright Act here does not allow for free, limited use of content that is less than 50 years old. However, in the US, a limited exemption is made for community radio. They can access popular content to sustain interest.” Community radio stations in the US are popular locally and this is possible due to their free access to entertainment unlike here, says Mr.Prakash. Bereft of entertainment to couch social content, audience retention is affected.

As low power transmitters, community radio should be given limited exemption to use songs.

The CRS has touched lives in the most unexpected ways. “A folk artist with a voice to peg, but not the resources, had a collection of his songs recorded via Kalanjiam, and also had 1,000 copies of it sold. He also gave us the right to use his content,” says Mr.Prakash.

For Kalanjiam, local folk artists, unheard of outside of their villages are welcome to record their songs, and in return endow Kalanjiam with the right to use their content, not as stakeholders but for use for the community.

Here is will, and the synergy to build community skills, to safeguard and disseminate traditional wisdom.

Source: The Hindu