By Venu Arora
In the last month, I have witnessed this spirit exemplified in the work of partner CR stations across India as well as our FreeDem Community WhatsApp Radio that works in the migrant communities around the Delhi metropolitan cities. In December of 2019 we at Ideosync Media Combine had just concluded an intensive public interest journalism training for over 60 community radio stations across India. The training included sessions on factchecking. This has proved handy in the last month as community radio reporters have been ensuring that only factchecked and reliable information is relayed through their broadcasts. Many have partnered with local district authorities and have received regular information and updates. Many have shared through our CR network group what might be misinformation or disinformation circulating in their areas – such as blaming religious minorities, unscientific information regarding transmission of the virus, or false stories about its origins. We verify every audio or video sent to us and send back factchecked details. Some CR stations have also started innovative programmes designed to settle fraying nerves during the lockdown by providing on-air counselling. Others are running on-air classrooms for primary students in rural areas with little or no access to digital spaces to attend the online classes that have become the norm in most privileged settings.
The pandemic has also brought to the fore the urgent need to provide for reservations in spectrum, and to support community media and community radio, as we continue to have vast numbers of people who do not have access to digital media, in infrastructure as well in terms of digital skills. Our Community Media Paathshala in slum colonies around Delhi has been running an offline /online radio series, Covid special reporting from the ground, which we post as podcasts (The Ideosync Podcast, http://podcast.ideosyncmedia.org/). We tag the administrations to highlight stories of migrant and daily wage earning families without rations or LPG gas cylinders, domestic violence- and related abuse, and other needs in the communities.
Venu Arora is an NWMI member and the co-founder Ideosync Media Combine