Y Bala Murali Krishna

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Panaji, Nov 17 (UNI) South Asian countries need as many Community Radio stations as possible to promote civil society's development and empowerment and also autonomous television broadcasting with the least government interference.

This was the unanimous opinion of media specialists, TV broadcasters and academicians participating in the three-day Annual South Asia Media Summit, on its penultimate day at the International Centre Goa (ICG) here today.

The Summit has been organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Media Information and Communication Centre of India and the ICG with ''Media and Public Interest in South Asia'' as its theme. About 35 experts from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, including Goa, are participating.

The technical session on ''Community Radio in South Asia: Broacasting and Development'', chaired by Editor, Mishu Rahman, Purple, Bangladesh, pointed out that Community Radio had been doing tremendous service in the South Asian countries, reflecting the aspirations of the communities besides empowering them a lot.

The concept, however, started gaining momentum only recently after the Supreme Court observed two years ago that open air should not have any government restrictions.

Explaining its growth in Nepal, Editor, The Himal, Kathnandu Shiva Gaule said the Community Radio had also of late gone the commercial way competing with the commercial broadcasters for ad support.

Pakistan's Rahimullah Yasufzai explained how certain muslim militants gained control of a popular tourist valley in Afghanistan and some areas of Pakistan after it gained confidence of the local populace.

Tracing the origin of the radio movement in India, Ihswar Bhat (TOI-Bangalore), Prof Arul Aram (Anna University) and Raman Nanda (Broadcasting consultant-Delhi) argued that community radio could be viable and sustainable if maintained on professional lines for the purpose it was meant for.

To a question, Prof Arul ruled out taking control of the Community Radios by thugs and militants in India as these elements could gain nothing by doing so. ''They try to gain control of the state radio instead for dictating terms to the government even as one could run illegal radio networks like in Pakistan and Aghanistan'', he added.

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