Self-Sustainability Of Community Radio: Stories From India


The legalization of setting up a Community Radio Station came after a long and voiced revolution from various grass-root organizations, individuals and communities. Community Radio is not just something which is feeding the people’s mind with few people’s choices, interests and beliefs, its inception goes back to the logic of providing Voice to the Voiceless, Being A Tool of Development Communication, Acceptance of Multiple Voices and of course Giving Space to Multiple Voices- in order to remove the homogeneity of views, ideas and beliefs. Secondly, its focus on covering micro level issues which are directly linked with people’s life increases its importance. The participatory approach makes it different from the main-stream media, as it involves people to talk their concerns and listen to their voices on Radio. Here while talking about Community Radio I would like to quote Brecht-

“Radio is one sided when it should be two. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organize its listeners as suppliers.”[1]

This means of alternative media asks for participation of people in program making, managing and owning the Radio station. Community Radio Stations serves a defined geographic community. Participation at various levels gives the sense of ownership to the people which actually helps the CRS or to say any other organization in its functioning. In case of Community Radio once the organization gets the license it has to look at the revenue generation aspects as it would be the only thing which will make it sustainable the longer run. The term sustainability has been used here for both the meanings first in terms of financial self-sufficiency and sustainability of the programs.

This study looks at types of innovation done or being used by the organizations running a Community Radio Station. Market orientation is the factor which defines the demarcation between organization’s mission and its efforts to face the market pressures, as well as to what extent a social enterprise should look for its cost recovery.

Two different but quite successful models of Community Radio Stations in India- the first one is Deccan Development Society’s Radio Sangham at Pastapur village of Medak district, Telangana and second Mumbai University’s campus community radio- MUST Radio have been presented in this study. In India, campus and community run radio stations both are defined as Community Radio Stations.

Community Radio Guidelines permit 5 minutes slot for advertisements in one hour of broadcast and a Community Radio Station can get limited sponsorship from Central or state governments and from multilateral agencies[2]. Community Radio Guidelines say that Community Radio Stations would have to follow the All India Radio code of Advertisements- here the question of taking or refusing certain types of advertisements; or from certain types of organizations will definitely depend on the ideology of the organization which is running the Community Radio Station.

Secondly, Social Entrepreneurship as an emerging field in the social sector basically caters three factors for one organization to be called as a Social Enterprise- Sociality or Social Value Creation, Innovation and Market Orientation[3]. Sociality is the factor which defines the organization’s mission. Innovation is discussed widely in variety of places including literature related to business, technological or any other type of entrepreneurship. It could be product, process and positioning or paradigm innovation.

The two models studied differ in terms of target audience, geographical locations and way of functioning. Deccan Development Society’s Radio Sangham is run by rural dalit women’s collective and hence it clearly shows its social mission of empowering those women. On innovation part the idea itself is new of involving those women whose voices were not taken into consideration even if policies and programs were made for them- Radio Sangham is providing them the platform to raise their voices and to be heard by the community. Mumbai University Student Transmission (MUST Radio) is a Campus Community Radio, with a new organizational structure which comprises of professional radio broadcaster, technician, students and few people from neighboring community. It asks its listeners to come and speak on their radio, provides space to NGOs and other civil society organizations and covers seminars and conferences of the university. And hence the product is also innovative which opens up a new market segment from the target market, and it might become the factor which will give the competitive advantage to MUST Radio. Both of the CRS are using five minutes slot per hour for revenue generation. They also seek sponsorships and funding from different government and non-government sources. This book presents these case studies in detail. This book is a useful tool for media students, researchers, academicians and civil society organizations interested to understand the current situation of community radio stations in India as examples for social enterprise.

(*Ashish Singh is working as a Consultant: Programmes, Policies & Communications with ActionAid India, New Delhi. He can be reached at- [email protected])

[1] The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication by Bertolt Brecht; July 1932.

[2] Released by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, available at

[3] Ed. By- Dr. Alex Nicholls, Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change, Oxford

University Press, 2006, pp. 99-118

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