Published: 27th July 2021
Kochi's first community radio station is here. Here is how it became a reality
Radio Kochi 90FM is a project developed by St Teresa's College and was launched recently
The world is such that sometimes even doing an act of goodwill needs to go through several hurdles along the way. The sheer number of obstacles in the way can cause one to lose hope and lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. But there are some goals which are driven by so much passion and energy that the end is achieved no matter what. One such project is Radio Kochi 90FM that began broadcasting recently.
The first community radio station in Ernakulam district, it is the brainchild of the people at St Teresa's College, Kochi. The inspiration to start this community-driven project came to Dr Latha Nair R, Deputy Director at the station and head of the English department at St Teresa's College, when she was doing her master's degree in the UK. "I was struck by the level of importance that is given to community radio in Britain. When I came back I wanted to initiate the project back in 2007 but at that time I was unaware of the challenges that awaited me or even the type of programmes we would be broadcasting."
Radio Kochi 90FM Program Head Tania Lewis at the helm | Pic: Albin Mathew
It is surprising to note that Radio Kochi was almost set up in 2007 itself, as Dr Latha tells us. "We were all set to launch the radio station. I had single-handedly managed to file the application for it but finally, due to some technical problems we could not go through with the project." This incident was not a one-off either. In 2014, Dr Latha made another attempt but she was unaware of the harsh reality that the process of setting up a community radio station had become much more stringent.
It was at that point though that she met Krishnakumar CK, the current Station Director at Radio Kochi and Tania Lewis, the Programming Head. The process had not become any easier though as she says, "It was a huge test of our willpower." Finally when the project came through, they were thrilled. The radio station would strive to be a nodal agency for the coastal community in a way similar to how St Teresa's college, its parent organisation, worked for the community during the 2018 Kerala floods.
There is a strong commitment to the programmes being driven by hardcore research. Dr Latha assures us that upto 80 per cent of the programme would come from the community itself. She underlines the importance of the student community that led to the formation of the radio station. "Our students were very committed to the project and it was they who did the quantitative survey of audience estimates. This was lauded by the expert panel when I applied to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for the project," she lets on.
Radio Kochi has also allowed the student community at St Teresa's College to participate in its programming. Merin V Robin, a student of the college, narrates her experience working at the station, "I have been able to learn so much during my time here be it voice modulation or content writing. I have also been able to come up with my own programme of English songs which will be airing this weekend. The radio would provide a platform for the students to participate in the process of creating audio content. I feel the radio is very approachable in this regard."
Dr Latha also spoke about the role that this project would play in uplifting young women in the community. to positions of power in the society. "The radio would be the perfect avenue for voicing women's voices. The radio would be an ideal tool for them to connect with society at large," she adds.
While the radio station would connect the people in and around the college together, it is important to understand the programmes that would emanate from it have a wider scope. Krishnakumar CK says, "We have identified twelve thematic areas on which we would focus our programmes. Some of them are coastal area management, climate change, empowerment of women and children and education."
It is production time at Radio Kochi 90FM | Pic: Albin Mathew
One of the particular areas of focus is that of knowledge dissemination. Krishnakumar adds, "We would be inviting people from various academic institutions from the state as well as beyond it to facilitate discussions on the different topics that academia puts forward." This will ensure scholarly discussions on contemporary issues.
Which will also lead to action on the ground. He talks about the importance of staying on guard with respect to climate change and disaster mitigation with special reference to the Kerala floods in 2018. "We need to equip the people with the basic knowhow of dealing with natural disaster situations before they even happen. We would produce talks with expert people to deal with such situations," he says.
The community radio station would also strive to be a facilitator of information from the grassroots level of the society to the concerned authorities, believes Krishnakumar. "We need to understand why the medium of choice for the Prime Minister is radio and not television or the newspaper. The radio is a dynamic tool which can be listened to even while doing some other act. As a community radio station, we would strive to make the public participatory in our programmes. We would invite the common folk to make use of our studio and create their own programmes."
Radio Kochi is also innovative due to the fact that it has its own mobile application through which any person in the world can listen in to the livestream of the radio programme at any point in time. "In this way we can equip any Malayali sitting in any part of the world with the same information," says Krishnakumar.
There is already a buzz about Radio Kochi. As Dr Latha efficiently puts it, "There are endless possibilities with Radio Kochi but we need to take one step at a time."