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Radio remains a powerful broadcaster in Covid age

The very first broadcasts at the station were done with the district magistrate, the chief medical officer and senior medical officer of the nearest hospital.

Asha Ramachandran | New Delhi |

Celebrating the 10th year of World Radio Day on 13 February and over 110 years of this medium, radios around the globe are connecting with their communities in various ways.

Proclaimed in 2011 by the member states of UNESCO and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, 13 February became World Radio Day (WRD).

On this occasion, UNESCO also called on radio stations to observe this day through three themes ~ evolution, innovation and connection. Despite inroads made by the electronic media, including TV, Internet and social media, radio continues to hold its own and remains, even today, the most powerful medium of communication.

In its message, UNESCO said, “Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard. Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organisations and operations.”

In India, radio has evolved over the years to adapt and innovate according to the ever-changing world. It has proved to be invaluable during natural disasters, epidemics and emergency situations, emerging as a resilient and sustainable form of communication.

In this context, community radios (CRs) have played an important role in providing the last mile link for people, who either live in mediadark areas, remote villages, or are affected by disasters.

More recently, when the entire world stood challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, the local community radio stations continued their broadcasts to keep people informed and connect local authorities with the community.

The community radios also became the bridge between medical departments and the local people. “Since community radio caters to a small geographic area, the new media such as live-streaming and mobile apps have helped to provide programme content access to and from anywhere in the world,” said Pooja O Murada, Principal Lead, Outreach for Development, S M Sehgal Foundation, which has initiated a community radio Alfaz-e-Mewat in Nuh district of Haryana.

“Another communication tool, podcasting, is promising as it can entertain, inform and expand the coverage without too much screen engagement. During Covid times, we also launched our podcast channel called SMSF Connect, which is a go-to place for information about rural development themes and select radio campaigns on health and hygiene.”

Situated in the foothills of the Aravali mountain range in village Ghaghas of Nuh district, Alfaz-e-Mewat FM 107.8 broadcasted nonstop since the outbreak of the pandemic. Covid response at the radio station began as early as February 2020 and continued to focus on awareness generation about the virus and prevention.

The very first broadcasts at the station were done with the district magistrate, the chief medical officer and senior medical officer of the nearest hospital.

The Covid programming ensured that listeners receive timely updates on the pandemic, clear information from credible sources and on the do’s and don’ts to safeguard themselves from Covid-19, together with sharing on positivity and mental well-being through psychologists.

Rural schoolchildren have tuned in to radio for education amidst the pandemic. Alfaz-eMewat’s Radio School programme reached out to children across a number of villages in the Haryana district.