To, Date: 25 June 2020
Shri Prakash Javadekar,
Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting
Government of the Republic of India
Subject: Appeal to support Community Radios during COVID-19 Crisis
Dear Honourable Minister,
Greetings to you from the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Asia-Pacific!
Over the past few months it has become increasingly clear that the current COVID-19 induced crisis requires active cooperation between government and society, if we are to emerge as a progressive society.
Crucial to such cooperation is the establishment of accurate information and participation, which in turn creates a culture of accountability and responsibility from all stakeholders. The role of media and communications is crucial, critical and central to any effort aimed at forging deeper understanding between communities and the Government.
This is a time when new bonds of solidarity and community support must be forged. Therefore, it becomes important for both government and society to support existing media and communication systems not only in general, but especially so in the present moment.
Our contemporary mainstream broadcast media use satellite broadcasting and therefore have large footprint. Due to various other reasons, including economic reasons, television channels are based in metropolitan cities and have no bandwidth or resources to represent communities in rural areas, especially vulnerable groups. Similarly, media and communications on the internet is a valuable resource but hindered by uneven access and media literacy. In such a situation, community media is a valuable grassroots mechanism for strengthening cooperation amongst communities and between government and society.
India has more than 200 community radio stations and many more community-based media initiatives. As you too have noted in your speeches, many of them are continuing to broadcast, fulfilling an essential task for the greater good even as they take great personal risk. Such community media initiatives need to be recognised and supported through every measure available to the government.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has a Community Radio Support Scheme under the 12th Plan, which has provisions for emergency and innovation grants. The current COVID-19 crisis is undoubtedly an emergency for many community radio stations who are struggling to survive. In spite of their difficulties, they are innovating in various ways to reach out to their listeners. The current crisis requires that these funds, which in past years have tragically remained under-utilised, be used to benefit community radios when they need it the most.
We call upon the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under your leadership to immediately release funds from the CR Support Scheme to community radio stations so they can continue playing a vital role in their respective communities during this crisis.
The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Asia-Pacific would like to appeal for the following:
- Create an emergency fund in support of community radio stations, in consultation with representatives of the sector;
- Make an immediate commitment towards maintaining the community radio sector’s current funding levels through greater use of community radios for government health and information campaigns; and
- Ensure that community radio stations can access any available funds aimed at generating public awareness through all levels of governments – union, state and local
- Ensure that community radios are not compelled to compromise their independence and editorial integrity as free media for accessing any support from the government.
I hope that you will consider this appeal positively and with the urgency that the current situation demands.
I thank you for your kind attention.