The biggest challenge the community radio stations in India are facing is that of financial sustainability, concluded a recent research study of three operational radio stations in Bundelkhand. The study makes a strong case for making available independent, public funding for sustaining existing stations for such things as equipment upgradation, replacement of defective or obsolete technology, and salaries of minimal station personnel. This UNICEF-supported study carried out by the UNESCO Chair on Community Media team critically examines the functioning of three community radio stations in northern and central India, two of which were started with the assistance of UNICEF.


Over the last five years, several grassroots organisations working especially in rural areas, have come to see in community radio a significant tool to articulate people’s concerns in their own voices about their environments and ecologies, livelihoods and local cultures, and, more generally, their hopes and aspirations. Multilateral agencies, donors, and independent facilitators and capacity-
builders have emerged on the scene today, are keen to enable access to audio production technologies and skills to marginalized sections of Indian society. While there are several constraints and challenges in running such radio stations, many of the operational
ones have been racked by issues of sustainability (both social and financial), people’s participation in programme production, community ownership and management, and building a committed listener base.

This research was undertaken by UNESCO Chair to carry out a two-pronged study that involved a) Institutional assessment of the
functioning of operational community radio (CR) stations and b) A review of the reach of the CR station and engagement among the listeners and other stakeholders. The study examined the context and process of the setting up of the community radio station; the role and contribution of technical agencies involved in setting up the community radio projects; the governance of the radio station
and how they facilitate community ownership; the dynamics of radio programming and broadcast; the role of networking in sustaining the station; the participation of and community ownership among the various stakeholders in the community; and the reach of the CR station and its engagement with the listeners. The three stations included in the research, all located within the Bundelkhand region straddling the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, were Lalit Lokvani in Lalitpur (UP); Radio Dhadkan in Shivpuri
(MP); and Chanderi Ki Awaaz in Chanderi (MP). The research team was convinced that UNICEF and One World South Asia (OWSA, which to some extent facilitated the setting up of the CR station in Chanderi) selected NGOs that had an established community presence, and had been working with people at the grassroots level for several years on issues of development and empowerment for setting up the three stations.


The mandates of the two UNICEF funded stations significantly showcase the social and developmental agendas of the funding agency as
well as that of the NGOs. This does not mean that they are necessarily divorced from the ‘needs’ of the people. The overarching approach is to ‘cater’ to information needs of the community and borders on being instructive and prescriptive. In Chanderi, although the larger mandate of BVS is to strengthen the weavers’ community, the objectives seem to aim at larger development of the community. But again, the approach is to bring about social change through information dissemination and creating awareness. Community participation component was limited to highlighting the local culture and promoting local talent. The detailed report with the key conclusions and recommendations will be in the public domain soon.

Kanchan K. Malik