Thereason for this research lies in the fact that expansion of alternative mediachannels in India has triggered the new dimension of mass media channelsespecially in terms of its role in skill development process at grassrootslevel. The aim of this research is to investigate how community radioinitiatives in India has emerged as a powerful participatory medium ofcommunication for the empowerment of underprivileged and marginalizedcommunities in terms of skill development. A Responsible citizen is centralaspect of democracy. As says Aristotle, “A citizen is the one who plays thedual role of the ruler as well as the subject” i.
e. a responsible citizenis the one who necessarily participates in the process of governance. Herein laysthe importance of the role the media i.e. the fourth estate needs to play in aparliamentary democracy such as ours.
Ashish Sen (Media Development,Bangalore) underlines the pertinent and the pro-active role played by the mediain India. He says, “In terms of reach and access, India’s print andbroadcast media is strong: Â Approximately 60% of urban Indians and 25% ofrural Indians read print media on a regular basis, and 96% of the country isreached by radio”. (Source: https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2011/02/community-radio-for-rural-development) Thehigh degree of commercialization of newschannels and a detrimentally increasing influence of a select few on the kindand the nature of issues highlighted, the never-ending obsession with thecasual effect of policies on the privileged class delivers a partial and to anextent, deceptive information to the people.
The issue of paid news misleadingthe electorates, and of the media being used as a tool for propaganda and othersuch impediments calls for a different manifestation of the media in which itshould play a very neutral, growth-centric role as in the case of communitymedia. In this era of growing inclination towards market-drivenconsumerist and commercial ideals, the role of community media at large becomessignificantly pertinent and sacrosanct. Unlikemainstream media that primarily aims to serve a broad and general audience witha commercial purpose, community media aims to serve those who do not have anyother channels that can amplify their voices, without looking for profit inthose efforts. Community media springs from dissatisfaction with mainstreammedia and serves to offer an alternative media channel for the community. An essential component of communitymedia is community radio.
Community radio derives its genesis from thefundamental principles of democracy necessarily entailing equal and activeparticipation in civic affairs and freedom of speech and expression. Communityradio therefore caters to the interest of such groups. It is thus obvious tothe point of banality that the low level of literacy rates and even lowerawareness towards the society is definitely a handicap for them.
Consequently the community radio has become an importantmedium for development and social change, giving communities a platform forcommunicating about local issues, news and challenges that directly affecttheir daily lives. It has also demonstrated many positive attributes thatbenefit in preserving local culture, giving the community a voice and capacityto express their identity, and empowering the community with direct positiveeffects on democracy (Mtimde, 2000; Myers, 2011; Odine, 2013). Rennie (2006) emphasizes therole and value of community media as citizens’ ability for self-representationand self expression. In other words, simply the ability to voice your ownconcerns and represent yourself in your own community, are fundamental empoweringand democratizing principles.
Even though empowerment can be understood indifferent ways, a broad understanding of the term in terms of skill developmentwill be undertaken in this study. It’s the relationship between participation,skill development and empowerment that will work as a theoretical framework toanalyze how participation contributes the process of skill developmentand ultimately it empowers communities.