Students in India Take to the Airwaves

From India Times: Campus radio has students hooked 8 Nov, 2007, 1637 hrs IST,Shreya Biswas, TNN
NEW DELHI: It's time to tune in folks! Ever since the government announced revised guidelines on community radio service (CRS), hordes of educational institutes and universities are hitting the air waves with their own versions of FM radio. While FM radio service by some premier universities such as Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi, University of Agricultural Sciences and Holy Cross College in the south have already gone on air, scores of others are planning to jump on to the bandwagon including IIT-Kanpur. There are others such as IIM-Kozikhode and Lucknow that have chosen to launch Internet radio, a students only initiative to provide a live and interactive platform their community. While IIM-K's K-dio is already
operational, IIM-L is plans go live shortly.

In the last one year alone around 10 campus radio stations across the country have become operational. "The CRS initiative didn't get as much response initially and institutes were reluctant to sign on due to some infrastructural issues," says M V Vijayan, under-secretary, FM, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. "However, in the last one year, after the announcement of revised guidelines, they are responding well and institutions who stayed back due to lack of awareness are now coming forward."

Delhi University's campus radio, launched last month, has already got the students hooked. There have been three auditions for the various programmes and students create the content. While the number of students for the initial auditions was a mere 20-25, the fourth audition has attracted close to 100 applicants. "Almost 50% of the content will be for the students and the issues they are attached to and the rest will be for the community around the campus," says Vijaylakshmi Sinha, head of the project for DU and former director-general, AIR. She adds that the response has been "great".

The programmes are of general interest like girls' safety or academic like career counselling besides softer genre programmes on junk jewellery, eating jaunts, music and discussions. That's exactly what the community radio initiative is aimed at, providing the students or the community an interactive platform to reach out to each other, discuss issues of common interest and provide a platform to develop talent.

IIT-Kanpur, which plans to come up with its own community radio by next March, wants to reach out to the community around the college besides the students. There are plans to air programmes on agricultural research, newer technologies and topics of general interest. "By March next year, the studio would be operational. It will operate within a radius of 15km, reaching out to the students and the people around the campus and addressing topics of their interest." says Sanjay Dhande, director, IIT-K.

Till now, competition from FM channel and limited reach has restricted the success of such community radio to a few. Pune University's Vigyaan Vaani launched in 2005 is a case in point. The channel is received within a radius of 7km of the assigned 10km while majority of its target audience is in the centre of the city. Obviously, they can't be reached. Besides, the huge
competition from FM channels has also been a cause of concern. "Unless we can reach out to more students and people, no one will know the utility of such an effort," says Anand Deshmukh, director, Vidya Vaani. "Though there have been efforts to make it interesting, the efforts are noticed only if you reach out to them. What we have now done is to put up the programmes on the website of the channel so that it is accessible." The channel airs various programmes on issues related to student community, general interest and music where students perform. This, the institutes feel is a good way to nurture talent and give them an opportunity to connect with their immediate neighbours and come up with ideas for problem solution.