New Delhi: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued instructions to all community radio stations across the country to broadcast the 100th episode of the Prime Minister’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme, live. The 100th episode of Modi’s broadcast on state media has been receiving a massive push in the past few days, and a ‘Rs 100’ coin series is also being minted to ‘commemorate’ it. The coin, which complete with the logo and title of Modi’s radio show, will be released by Modi himself. It is a step evocative of a coronation, rather than of a prime minister in a democracy in a routine broadcast.
While such instructions to carry ‘Mann ki Baat’ have gone out in the past as well, this time the government means business. The Community Radio Station cell of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) on April 24 issued instructions calling for ‘proof’ of the broadcast having taken place.
“Community Radio Stations are advised to send, a one-minute audio clip of the broadcast consisting of 25 seconds of the initial portion broadcast and 25 seconds of last portion of broadcast appending the name of the Community Radio Station, immediately after completion of the broadcast. The audio clip may be sent through link which shall be shared shortly.”
Not only this, the radio station is also expected to celebrate the 100th episode of ‘Mann ki Baat’ and send a photograph as additional evidence. In addition to this, the letter says that “a photo of the community listening to the broadcast as a memoir” is also required to be sent to the ministry.
The 100th episode which the MIB describes as a “historic event” will be aired on Sunday, April 30th at 11 am. The feed will be available from All India Radio as well as the Newsonair app.
Views on Mann ki Baat
However, community radio operators are not excited about this “significant milestone”.
Says a radio operator, “On a weekend, people have already made their plans. There are very few listeners tuned in anyway. But this time, because it is compulsory, we will have to air it. Otherwise we rarely air these episodes.”
Ram Prasad of Radio Dhimsa from Koraput in Odisha says that because the station’s slots are already scheduled, it has not had occasion to air ‘Mann ki Baat’ before. “We have shows on health, education, livelihood support, etc. and since the slots are already prepared, ‘Mann ki Baat’ could not be aired. We have never received a reminder of this kind by the ministry to air the programme. But if it is compulsory, we will discuss it with the management and decide.”
Rajesh Prasad Verma of Radio Jagriti from Jharkhand told The Wire, that private commercial broadcasters do not air ‘Mann ki Baat’ in the first place.
“These instructions are only sent to community radio stations it seems. I had asked this question to former Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar during an on-air interaction but he ignored my question. As it is, we have little or no source of income and are paid measly amounts in advertisements but the royalty we have to pay is Rs 23,500 per annum and if we fail to do so, a penalty is imposed with 2% interest per month,” Verma said.
Sachin Menkudale, vice-president of the Community Radio Association (CRA), agreed on the point of meagre earnings. “Government advertisement rates were recently raised and are now Rs 52 for 10 seconds. This is too little,” he added.
Professor Vinod Pavarala of the University of Hyderabad and UNESCO Chair on Community Media said that the move reduces community radio to “last mile carriers of government propaganda” at the cost of empowering them as independent community service providers. “If private radio was dictated to, they too would fall in line,” he added.
Pavarala said there have hardly been any additions to community radio stations in the past 10 years. Of the 400 odd stations, many have gone off air or are in the process of surrendering their licence. Out of these 400, no more than 10% stations have come up in the past 10 years.
Another member of the CRA said that it is purely due to the goodwill enjoyed by some officials in the MIB that radio stations air ‘Mann ki Baat’. Otherwise, he said, it is aired “only to show proof that the programme is being aired.”
A radio station owner from Haryana said that while he has never run ‘Mann ki Baat’ – “since it is run on several TV channels and radio stations” – he will comply with what seems to be an order this time.
More CRA embers said government orders have to be complied with since this is part of the agreement when licences are issued.
Gayatri Usman of Radio Kadal Osai disagreed. She said there is no compulsion to air the ‘Mann ki Baat’ episodes. “The ministry has also issued an invite, and even there it is not a compulsion. And each station has its own stand. We at Kadal Osai FM 90.4 CR will air the speech of our country’s prime minister,” he said.
A special study on the show was released by the Press Information Bureau. Professor Dheeraj P. Sharma, director of IIM Rohtak is cited in the special PIB release on ‘Mann ki Baat’, released on April 24, where he said, “Nearly 96% of people are aware of ‘Mann ki Baat’. More than 100 crore people have listened to it at least once since its inception, which is a reflection of how far the reach of ‘Mann ki Baat’ has gone. 23 crore people have listened to the programme regularly.”