Radio: A companionable presence at the turn of a switch

According to Elise Nordling, “The primary function of radio is that people want company.” Assuming that to be true, what kind of company do people normally want? Who do you and I like to talk to? To listen to? To someone who speaks our own language, perhaps. To someone who understands our world, and our lives, and the joys and sorrows and challenges that go into living each day. A mirror that we look into, sometimes admiringly, sometimes critically, but a mirror nonetheless.

Using that as a basic matrix, we can then build the foundation for a “community radio” which by its very definition must be an even more companionable presence than a wide area channel that talks to many more people.

Building a community radio in Gurgaon, one that caters first and foremost to the semi-urban, semi-rural population that lives in villages around the urban residential and industrial sprawl in what is now referred to as New Gurgaon, means that the first colour in our palette is language, probably Hindi, preferably Haryanvi. To draw the broad strokes that will define the station, the minute a listener tunes in, we need some truly world-class Haryanvi music.

Luckily, just such a talent is not too far away. Prem Singh Dehati is a Haryanvi folk musician and theatre person who has spent over three decades regaling the people of this state with adrenalin pumping Haryanvi music, ranging from folk songs set around seasons, harvest and marriages, to patriotic songs that hark back to the brave deeds to Raja Nahar Singh in the Revolt of 1857 to heart-wrenching ballads about dying soldiers writing their final letter home.

A Grade-A performer with All India Radio and Sangeet Natak Akademi, Mr Dehati works for the Cultural department of the Haryana government. He has very generously offered to assist Radio Gurgaon in creating special folk music for our jingles, fillers, and lead-ins for programs, especially programs on education and livelihood. In addition, he has offered to guide us in short-listing performers who can record in our studio, or who can offer opportunities for live recording.

The biggest challenge that has emerged, then, is not talent, but finding the financial resources to fund the creation of a bank of at least 35 to 40 hours of Haryanvi folk music that we can play in between regular programs. We will need at least 20 lakhs over the next one year to cover the cost of calling musicians to our studio, their charges, which range from Rs 4000 to Rs 5000 per hour of recorded music, the charges of a good sound engineer to supervise these recordings so that they are of good quality, etc. The upside for any corporate supporting such a venture is that our community would love to hear such music – hence any advertising message that would go with such a broadcast would have an involved and engaged audience. Every hour of music that is played, would have this message broadcast with it, “This hour of music is made possible with support from….” – four times for each hour of music. Since there are many other CRs in other parts of Haryana, mostly run by educational institutions and agricultural colleges, this bank of Haryanvi music, shareable under a Creative Commons License, would mandate that the name of the company supporting the content creation would have to be broadcast as well. Hence, for a very modest sum, the sponsor/advertiser would gain enormous mileage across the entire state.

Another key area that we are looking at is Careers and Livelihood, since that is central to TRF’s ongoing work, and its work in the past. We want to create a thrice-a-week, one-hour long Career and Livelihood program that gives detailed information on one specific career in each program. Ultimately, over one year, we want to cover approximately 120 career options that our audience, and audiences anywhere in India, should be able to explore. The cost of creating such a program – all 120 modules – would be in the range of 8 to 10 lakhs, an amount that would cover the cost of research, studio and field recordings with resource people (heads of educational institutes, potential employers, people working in a specific field, etc).

The sponsor of such a program would gain enormous mileage, not only on Radio Gurgaon, where the program would be aired thrice a week (with repeat broadcasts on the same day), but on other CR stations across India. Any CR station that wants to air these modules under a Creative Commons License, would have to broadcast a message from the sponsor at the beginning, middle and end of each module.

Regardless of whether corporates support program creation for community radio for their own advertising and marketing needs, or under their existing CSR programs, the end result will be meaningful programming for the community, and a unique opportunity for brand building for a corporate entity.

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