“Namma Dhwani”, an Indian experience of community radio

T. M. Radha

Namma Dhwani, meaning “our voice” is a unique initiative, towards promoting effective rural communication. It has been set up in Budikote in Kolar district of Karnataka with a collaborative effort of three institutions, namely, UNESCO for providing equipment, MYRADA for providing space/building and VOICES for the overall coordination.

This community audio production center was started during September 2001 which includes a recording studio and an instrument room complete with analog mixers and portable recorders. The programmes are decided and operated by the local community who have been trained on operation of equipments, the anchoring style, developing programmes, studio recording and maintaining the enterprise with proper recording mechanisms.

However, these programmes were not expected to be broadcast, as the government decided to grant license to recognized academic institutes only for community broadcasting which automatically bars NGOs to apply for license directly. Therefore, as an alternative, narrowcast was resorted to reach the rural communtiies. Majority of the existing 650 families in and around Budikote were connected with the cable network for their televisions. The project made use of this facility and resorted to narrow casting using existing cable network. Programmes were developed using the audio recording system. Questions related to specific topics like agriculture, health, employment etc., bothering the community were recorded and answers for these were elicited from the resource persons in the community and were also recorded  on audio tapes. These were then edited and programmed for narrow casting through one of the channels in the cable network system. However, this system had limitations. The communication was only through audio mechanisms though it was through the television. People could only listen and not view, which the community was not used to do so with a television set. Secondly, for an audio programme, people had to forego watching a channel on which they could view. To overcome this problem, UNESCO distributed radio sets to 250 families, which were tuned to receive signals through a specialised cable system.

Programmes are being narrow-casted for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. They include agricultural information, market information, folk songs, film songs, health information, bus timings, women and children programmes, local news, sports news, bhajans,  etc. Recording of the programmes is done either in the studio or locally, when the volunteers go and record in the field itself. The response from the community has been very encouraging as more and more people from the community, especially the women and children are increasingly participating in these programmes to share their views and knowledge. The project, which started functioning only about a year ago boasts of producing over 700 programmes, related to various interests of the community.

The entire unit is being managed by the communities themselves. There is a committee set up to look into the matters of operation and maintenance of the system. There are 15 self help groups in the village and two representatives from each sangha are the committee members. Of the total members, only two are men and the rest are women. The committee meets twice a month to discuss various issues and decides upon the programmes and their development aspects. Three graduate youth from the community manage the unit who are responsible for the overall operation and maintenance of the system. Besides, there are about 25 members who work for the programme development on a voluntary basis.

The production center transformed into a complete information center in April 2002, with the introduction of 8 computer systems. Course of two months’ duration is being conducted in teaching basics of computers (MS Office). This is conducted for an hour each in the morning and evening, to suit the timings of the community. This has become a great success with majority of school children, particularly those belonging to the higher classes and women. With Internet connection, the center will enable the community particularly the children and youth to access a host of web based information.

Namma Dhwani, rightly represents the community’s voice. The rural community has found an effective medium to voice their concerns and opinions. The system has built and strengthened the capacities of the community, especially the rural youth in handling and operating sophisticated equipment and honed their skills in programme development and anchoring. This system has also contributed towards increasing awareness levels among school going children through its educational programmes  (one of the cables is connected to the radio at school). Overall the community has discovered a medium in this community radio system, to unleash its creativity.

If the community’s response is any indicator, then  “Namma Dhwani” can be rated as an effective platform in promoting rural communication.

Note: The paper is based on the interactions that the author had with the resource center staff and communities of Budikote.


Acknowledgements: The author is grateful to Mr. Srinivasulu, Training Officer, MYRADA, Kamasamudram and the communities of Budikote for sharing valuable information.

 T.M. Radha, AME Foundation, # 1583, 17th Main, 2nd Phase, JP Nagar, Bangalore –560078; amebang@giasbg01.vsnl.net.in

VOICES, a unit of Madhyam Communications (a registered non-profit trust), was set up in 1991 as a development communications organisation working towards the empowerment of the disadvantaged and marginalised sections of society. It advocates communications for change through Communication production and dissemination; Communication training and action research; Development education; and Networking and consultancy. Among the NGOs, VOICES has taken a leading advocacy role for independent community broadcasting in India. These efforts received a major boost in February 1995, when the Supreme Court made a landmark judgment on broadcasting declaring that the airwaves should be regarded as “a public good”.


VOICES received UNESCO support to introduce a regular community radio programme through the local AIR radio station. Other activities of VOICES include conducting workshops on radio and print, for grassroots development workers from various parts of Karnataka. VOICES in collaboration with TMG, has produced and aired a series of films on the impact of technology on the lives of people with various kinds of disabilities.


For further information please contact: Ashish Sen, 165, 1st floor, 9th cross, 1st stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore 560 038, INDIA. Tel.: (080) 5213902/5213903, email voices@vsnl.com, www.voicesforall.org



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