Financial crisis at a community radio in Anugondanahalli village of Hoskete taluk, might silence its airwaves.
There is a sudden change in number of programmes broadcasted on 90.4 FM Sarthi Jhalak, a community radio channel in Anugondanahalli village, these days. Arogya Khajana, a program that includes experts discussing health issues has not been broadcast in the last two months. Instead, the time slot for this program has been filled by songs. Songs have also taken over slots of most of other programmes on this radio channel.
This is because the number of people running Sarthi Jhalak has come down to two from nine in the last two months.
“We had a team of nine people till November but seven people have quit their job in last two months reducing our staff number to two. We have not received our salaries for the last three months.” Sunil, a RJ at Sarthi Jhalak told City Cast.
The radio station which is quite popular in nearby villages for its programmes on education, health, agriculture, women security, sanitation, government schemes and many more has also lost its audience now.
“Earlier we used to get a lot of calls from our listeners who used to ask questions from experts on our programmes. That information was quite useful for them and we used to get very good feedback from our listeners. But these days due to fewer programmes, very few people listen to our channel.” tells Ramsha, another RJ at the channel.
Villagers are also not happy with irregular functioning of Sarthak Jhalak and are waiting in the hope that its shows will return. Nagappa, who had visited the radio channel offices various times to meet experts told City Cast, “Programs on agriculture were very helpful as we were able to know about government subsidies, produce prices on a regular basis and were also getting expert advice on farm-related issues.”
Concepts like community radio get support from donations by big organizations. Sarthi Jhalak was also functioning on funds given by these organizations. But they have not been receiving funds for quite some time.
“When Sarathi Jhalak was founded in 2012, we got an initial amount of Rs. 5 lakh from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. After that, we were getting small funds from BESCOM, BSNL and some other companies. But in the last two years, we have not received any donations from any one.
“Functioning of the channel involves expenditure like rent, electricity bill, salary of radio jockeys, basic expenditure for the guests that we invite. There was a similar fund crunch issue in 2016, but at that time villagers supported us with some funds. But they are also poor, and we cannot expect much from them. We have also written to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to help us but we haven’t heard anything from them as well.” Ms. Samanatha M, founder of Sarthi NGO that runs Sarathi Jhalak radio channel said.
In the 2014-15 Union budget, the government allocated Rs. 100 crore for community radio stations. But the policy dictates that after an initial amount of Rs. 15 lakhs is given for its inception, the government is not responsible for its maintenance and functioning. Mr. M Ravikumar Director, Information and Broadcasting, Karnataka said, “As per the policy, we are only entitled to allocate initial amount, rest has to be taken care by the people operating it. But, in the last four to five years, we have also realised that it is hard for them to operate as they do not get enough advertising. We are discussing to bring some changes in current policy and help these channels for their functioning.”
With this hope, Sarthi Jhalak is also hoping to come back on its track soon.