‘The radio saved my life. By listening to doctors being interviewed on the radio, I discovered that I had Covid-19 symptoms and managed to be treated in time and recover’. This is the opening statement in the Asian Review’s report on the role played by the Indian community radio stations, which are often the only means available for millions of people to access information in the most remote rural communities. During the pandemic the usual programmes speaking about agricultural techniques were substituted by explanations of how to put social distancing into effect and how to recognise Covid-19 symptoms. Together with the government authorities, they also helped to coordinate the distribution of food and medicines. This was an enormous job considering that there are only 276 community radio stations in the whole country. The government’s intention was to see an increase to 4000 broadcasters, which is a number equal to the commercial stations, but the main obstacle to this is the cost of equipment, which is very high for a community (starting from INR ₹ 1.9 million, which is more than US $ 25.000), as explained in detail in this article.
In order to give more information to the public during the Coronavirus pandemic, Ofcom, the UK’s independent communications regulator, has approved the opening of some new temporary radio stations. Licences have been awarded in areas that are not already served by community radio stations on the condition that arrangements have been made with local community leaders. In support of this venture, the Community Media Association, the organisation for British community broadcasting, has contacted the societies that manage music royalties to organise favourable conditions. PRS for Music is asking only £ 86 a month plus 20% VAT for 12 weeks.
Funding programme for entertaining those at home
The Audio Content Fund, a government funded scheme that finances original public radio, has allocated £ 200,000 (later increased to £ 400,000) to ideas, targeting listeners in lockdown during the pandemic. Among the approved projects, there is a 15-minute transmission made by people over their 70s for an audience over their 70s, and a ‘virtual’ version of Strawberry Fair in Cambridge, a music and arts festival that attracts up to 50,000 people to East Anglia.
Julian Clover, Editorial Lead, Cambridge 105 Radio said: ‘Strawberry Fair is one of the highlights of the year for our city and is one of our most popular outside broadcasts. While we won’t be able to make it to Midsummer Common we hope that our Virtual Strawberry Fair is able to give a taste of summer to Cambridge 105 Radio listeners.’
Four radio stations covering the festival
In addition to Cambridge 105 Radio (105.0 MHz), parts of the coverage will be heard on neighbouring stations: Star Radio (Star broadcasts on 107.9FM in Cambridge, 107.1FM across Ely and the Fens and now on 107.3FM in Saffron Walden), HCR104fm (Huntingdon Community Radio) and Future Radio (107.8FM from Norwich).