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The sound of youth

The radio bug is spreading on campuses.

There's music-and much more-in the air. After the fm radio boom comes the campus community radio (CR) wave. Picture this. Five hundred students in a Delhi college listen in rapt attention as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen delivers a lecture on the nuances of welfare economics. At the end of the speech, there are excited faces who want more, but have to be content with what they have got. Not any more. The 300,000 students of Delhi University (DU) will now have the option of listening to this lecture again and get their professors to interact with them on its finer points. All they have to do is to tune in to DU fm 90.4 either on radio or on the internet. Incidentally, the world's oldest community radio station is the one at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US that started broadcasting in 1916.

The Model Hunt

India's first campus community radio at Anna University, Chennai, Anna fm @ 90.4 Mhz, which went on air in 2004, has tuned in to just the right strategy and has achieved over 5,000 hours of broadcast. Aired from a small, completely digital, tapeless, multi-purpose studio in Anna University, the radio is on air seven days a week between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. with a variety of programmes targeting the student community. However, DU, with its ambitious 24x7 project, might just surpass all the existing players. What makes this project more sound is its reach. Set up at a cost of Rs 25 lakh, the DU fm will reach a student community of 300,000 (open learning and regular) and a local community population of one million. Says K.N. Tripathi, Dean, Research, University of Delhi: "The DU model is student-centric and makes use of their productivity. The multi-pronged objectives of the project are dissemination of important information, providing an interactive virtual platform and encouraging socially productive activities."

Though DU is not revealing the revenue model yet, that could well become the differentiator in the times to come for the 30 CRs running at educational institutes across the country. From no revenue-generation options, the new government policy stipulates that community radios can have five minutes of "limited advertising" per hour of broadcast. These limited advertisements and announcements relate to "local events, local businesses and services and employment opportunities." The policy will come into place once the government issues a circular in this regard.

Local's the Flavour

Till that happens, the possible revenue models are being vigorously thrashed out at these CRs that have a reach of 10-15 km radius. CR expert R. Sreedher, Director, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia and Technical Advisor to the DU project, wants the campus CRs to follow a content and revenue model moving away from beaten track. "We need to rely on small traders and the local community to make CR a viable movement. How about local ads at Re 1 per second or birthday greeting at Rs 10 apiece? It can still meet large part of running costs," he says. (See Riding the Airwaves)

Riding the Airwaves

Here's a peek into the business of community radio.

Cost of installation: Rs 20-25 lakh
Running cost per month: Rs 50,000

Sources of funds: Multilateral aid agencies; limited ads restricted to 5 minutes per hour of broadcast; announcements relating to local events, businesses and services.

Revenue thus generated can be used for the community radio services.

Content is the king and is generated mostly by the student community.
Once the government issues the circular, the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia, which provides consultancy to these projects, will invite all 30 CRs to discuss viable business models.

Content Rules

For now, content reigns supreme as with all media. Kolkata's Jadavpur University (JU) is awaiting the formal licence from the government for its CR, "which is expected any time now". Says Nilanjana Gupta, Media Director, JU: "We are also trying to network with other technical institutes, so that it actually becomes a campus radio for all technical institutes in the state."

DU is banking on its band of experts to hook listeners. Students can SMS their questions on a subject and then phone in and interact with subject experts. The DU fm is also flooded with suggestions on content. Says RJ Babita Jain, "Our e-mail account is flooded with requests from student bands wanting to perform, singers wanting to be heard and ideas galore for dial-in discussions." Campuses, it seems, cannot get more interactive than this.

(Additional inputs by Ritwik Mukherjee, Nitya Varadarajan)

Published on: Sep 11, 2007, 5:18 AM IST
Posted by: AtMigration, Sep 11, 2007, 5:18 AM IST