After the crackdown on NGOs, the government has turned the heat on 179 Community Radio (CR) stations operational in the country, struggling to remain on air on shoe-string budgets, by ordering them to throw open their content for scrutiny on a daily basis.
This, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has proposed, should be done on an email. In an order, dated April 30, the Ministry ordered the radio stations, that broadcast anywhere between eight and 20 hours to mail their content every day.
The order reads as follows: “You are requested to provide recordings of all programmes broadcast on daily basis from the date of receipt of this letter along with the logbook and the Q sheet. Please provide the recordings in MP3 format.”
For most CR operators, this is a logistical nightmare as they try and figure out how to execute the Government’s recent diktat.
The last time, the government had directed CRs to share their content was on a three-month basis which resulted in 30 DVDs being despatched to the ministry for scrutiny from a single radio station!
With the Supreme Court examining a petition, operators are barred from broadcasting their own news.
“Move for control of news content”
Many community radio (CR) operators believe the government is preparing the ground for control of content.
“If the courts allow news on radio, the government would retain scrutiny on content with this latest diktat.” In fact, this year’s budget provides for a Rs. 10 crore allocation for monitoring of radio content.
As of now, community radio operators have no option but to broadcast Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat — despite the government’s own ban on news! Many radio operators fear that their radio stations are increasingly being viewed as a platform for propagating government programmes.
In short, they are being asked to function as a mouthpiece for the government, instead of a watchdog. Vinod Pavarla, of the UNESCO chair of Community Media, Hyderabad said “the diktat amounts to harassing radio operators, who now have to set aside a dedicated team to comply with the government’s order.”