Exploring the Subaltern Voices: A Study of Community Radio Reporters (CRR's) in Rural India

By Patil, Dhanraj A. | The Qualitative Report, August 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Exploring the Subaltern Voices: A Study of Community Radio Reporters (CRR's) in Rural India


Patil, Dhanraj A., The Qualitative Report


Introduction

With the end of 1[9.sup.th] century and early 20th century the media instead of being a means for advancing freedom and democracy started flattering more and more a way of making capital and propaganda for the new and powerful classes. India is not exception for this reality, where we observe an oligopolistic supremacy over the terms of public debate and discourse by a few multi-sector conglomerates and power-wielding entities (Malik, 2012:1). The worst impacts of these changes are commercialization and urbanisation of mass media and the exclusion of the voices of rural subaltern groups. India has arrived at a historic fork towards tackling the regional disparities between urban and rural. In spite of recent economic growth, poverty levels have not been reduced at the same pace. With 33 per cent of the world's poor people, 41.6 per cent of India's population lives on less than US$1.25 a day. Poor rural people continue to live with inadequate physical and social infrastructure, poor access to services, and a highly stratified and hierarchical social structure, characterized by inequalities in assets, status and power. Agricultural wage earners, marginal farmers and casual workers constitute the bulk of subaltern rural people accounts for nearly 650 million. Majority of them belongs to scheduled caste scheduled tribe and nomadic communities (IFAD, 2011; World Bank, 2011). Although after media liberalization India saw a veritable media explosion but it has very little direct impact on the projection of the issues that has a bearing on the poor and excluded sections of the rural society (see Agrawal, 2006; Sainth, 2012; Satish, 2012). That broaches a question: Are India's rural issues, crises and anxieties getting the media spotlight they deserve? According to the recent study conducted by Mudgal Vipul (2011, pp. 92-97) of Delhi-based Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), mainstream Indian newspapers devote only two 02% of its space to stories about rural India. The aspiration level of people living in small villages is rising as much as in urban India and going pretty much unreported and undervalued. They are forced to continue only as consumers of media that is produced for them by outsiders. One reason for their lack of interest could be explained by the fact that their consumers, advertisers and journalists, mostly come from urban backgrounds (Choudhury, 2013).

Isolated and marginalized in particularly rural-remote groups face acute constraints with regard to access to information and communication, and thus have limited participation and voice in the public sphere and in decision-making process affecting their lives and thus risk further marginalization, politically, socially and economically (Balit, 2004; Miller, 1992; Melkote, 2001). In this context, the ability of "common" people even from the remote rural part to create and distribute their "own" content has amplified exponentially mainly through the emergence of community media channels such as community radio, video and newspaper. Earlier the means and sources of media content production and distribution were not in the hands of poor masses (see Atton, 2002; Carpentier et al., 2003; Fraser and Estrada, 2001). It has been observed that community radio stations are more popular in Indian context than the other community media channels. The rational for community radio in India is strong on legal-constitutional, social, cultural and development grounds. India is multi-linguistic, multicultural, and multi-religious with more than 4000 castes, tribes and nomadic communities. If one considers village as a community then there more than 0. 5 million villages and hence communities (Patil, 2010, p. 1).

The history of community radio in India is the account of struggle by human right activists, grass roots level community based organizations and communication media scholars with the help of few international development agencies like UNESCO, World Bank and AMARC. …

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