Self Regulation essential for the CR process in India

N. Ramakrishnan believes that the only way for the sector to evolve is through an effective process of Self Regulation. Self Regulation will ensure the best interest of the Community Radio stations across the country.

How do you think self-regulation needs to step up in each Community Radio Station given the inevitability of news in Community Radio?

I think self-regulation within the Community Radio sector starts with each radio station because, each station must see that it follows certain ethical codes and patterns which is defined by the community.  We are expecting a Community Radio Station to be designed, managed and run by the communities that it addresses.

Of course, for the sector as a whole should evolve a self-regulatory process where stations, if they can’t resolve certain issues between themselves or if their audience has complaints against stations, have some kind of appeal about the station to a different body which could be constituted among the station themselves.

Given the fact that the CR sector is only best understood by CR stations themselves it make sense to not have an external adjudicatory body to start with and to evolve a two tier or three tier process which can resolve any issue the station has with itself or its management process or the communities have with radio stations.

How important is it to bring in news into the gambit of Community Radio?

It is going to happen because the essential purpose of the Community Radio Station is to talk about local events, local purpose, to talk about local interest items and all that is news.

How does one talk about the price of the grain in an area, which is an important thing for people to know. If one doesn’t talk about the politics of grain pricing or vegetable pricing the how do we talk about the construction of a new role without talking about what it took for the new road to be made, how long it is lasted and how much it costs.

Everything, at one level, is involved with politics and other issues and everything one talks about is at some level news because it is an event which concerns the people. This takes on added significance because news, events, reports inevitably carries an aura of controversies because what one person’s news is another person’s contention.

Therefore, it involves the stations having a clear policy on how to deal with it, how to deal with the question of news, and what procedures to be involved in terms of deciding what is right and what is wrong, what is verified, what is just a rumor and that highlights the focus of self regulated process within the stations itself.

How do you think that element of regulation will have to adapt to the coming environment, with news becoming one part of the content?

I don’t see news as a separate part of content because the core focus of the stations is the ability to share what is important in the local community and a lot of that is information on what is happening in the community.

Everybody is happy to hear about local grain prices, about the things that are happening there, who has got a house for rent; these are things that concern the community and that’s what they want to talk about.

I don’t see news as a separate category requiring separate skills beyond the fact that the station has to evolve a process of verifying and fact checking which is something we expected to do on any bit of information if it passes off in a wrong way because it has the potential to confuse the audience when you are talking to a million and a half people. It is also important that when we get that procedure in place we should encourage the station to look over its information and to consult several authorities, in order to verify that something is correct or not. Beyond that I don’t see any special aspect of self regulation that should be applicable only to news.

N. Ramakrishnan works as an Executive Director with NCR based Communication for Development organisation, Ideosync Media Combine