India’s bipolar relationship with community radio resurfaced this week with the inauguration of a new radio station for fishing folk and a potentially liberalized policy for government monitoring of content.
First, the fishing story. The Times of India reports that an NGO will soon launch a local station for families who make their living catching fish in Rameswaram, a southeastern peninsula that points further eastward to Sri Lanka. The NGO in question is the Nesakarangal Minority Educational and Charitable Trust, which focuses on alleviating poverty in South India.
The station will focus mostly on weather and fishing conditions, as well as the status of various government services. The Times article quotes a local fishing association official: “After we go for fishing, weather forecast might change suddenly and there will be no way of getting the information. Radio is useful tool in such case. Moreover, when a fishing boat strands mid-sea and fails to return shore, SOS could be sent via radio station to other boats in the vicinity.”
The article suggests that mobile cellular wireless devices have their limits when it comes to communication on the Laccadive sea.
Meanwhile RMbiz, an Indian music trade industry journal, reports that India’s government is rethinking its practice of requiring community radio stations to regularly send their broadcast content to the authorities. It’s not entirely clear from the article why the reviewing is happening, except that the move “follows difficulties by most stations who do not find it convenient for various reasons.”
Like, I’m guessing, they often operate in very rural areas and don’t have the gear to constantly turn their AM or FM streams into wirelessly deliverable MP3 files (#duh #whoknew).
As we’ve noted earlier, India’s government views community radio stations with a great deal of suspicion, except, however, when the police plan to launch them to counter the influence of Maoists. It’s all very complicated. I think I’m going to have to go there at some point and talk to somebody about this stuff.
The fishing station goes on the air on April 14.