ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Redeeming All India Radio

Public (Service) Broadcasting and Communication Rights

India requires a grand vision for radio and a new approach to public service broadcasting. This article on public service broadcasting and communication rights argues that the All India Radio should remain true to its status as a public broadcaster. Instead of competing commercially with FM broadcasters, it must explore possibilities to devolve local radio further and experiment with this medium as a means of delivering information, education and entertainment.

For a variety of reasons, the human rights framework in India, as in most other countries, is yet to grapple with the distinct nature of communication rights (CRs) or validate its specificity as a human right on a par with other human rights that we often take for granted. Scholars have described CRs as a third generation “solidarity right” along with the right to peace, right to environment and other rights (the first generation being civil and political rights and the second being economic, social and cultural rights). While we can argue on where CRs should be located among these levels, given that the right to speak, to articulate, to voice can be considered a first principle and the basis for all other rights, the very fact that we live lives within a multitude of communication environments, many that are not of our choosing, makes it an imperative that we consider its role in shaping our lives in positive and negative ways. Why we communicate, how we communicate, who communicates and who does not communicate suggests that there are rules that structure access and use of communications.

The media, both old and new, does of course play an important role as interfaces between human beings and the world. We live lives that are caught up in a multitude of communication flows, lives that are in many ways conditioned by these flows, and increasingly, in our digital worlds, our quality of life is measured by our access to and use of these technologies. Essentially therefore, CRs are all about guaranteeing access and use of communications for all within enabling frameworks and environments. However, since communication is such a multi-accentual term and broad practice – an aspect of agency and of structure, an ontological reality as well the basis for mediation – it remains contested and this is reflected in the existence of issues that perhaps will never be resolved, from the nature of language policy, to the structuring of intellectual property laws, regulation of media ownership and of the need for frameworks and environments supportive of media diversity.

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