New Delhi: A radio jockey picks up the microphone and cheerfully wishes the listeners of her channel: “Salaam namaste.” No, she is not actress Preity Zinta, and this is not a scene from her 2005 film, Salaam Namaste, either.
It is instead RJ Sakshi Kansal, who hosts Salaam Morning, the first show in the day for Salaam Namaste, a budding community radio channel that plays in the tea stalls, housing complexes, offices and colleges of Noida and Ghaziabad, the satellite towns of New Delhi.
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“We are the voice of the voiceless. We help the community to speak up, especially those listeners who have never felt the privilege of a microphone,” says Barsha Chabaria, station head at Salaam Namaste.
Salaam and namaste are commonly used greetings in India. “The founders had a vision to welcome every one in the community—hence the name Salaam Namaste,” says Chabaria. “Also, they liked the name of the movie, which served their purpose and was also catchy.”
Salaam Namaste was launched in January 2009 from Noida-based management institute IMS College, operating on the 90.4 FM frequency.
The purpose, according to Rajeev Kumar Gupta, president of IMS College, was to identify and serve the information needs of the community.
Its programmes focus on themes ranging from healthcare to education, women’s empowerment to talent spotting.
The channel has a line up of six shows through the day, including Salaam Morning and Evening Club.
“The morning show listenership is dominated by professionals and housewives. Traffic updates, birthday wishes, recipes and cooking tips are the most sought after things on the live shows,” says Kansal, its host.
Shows by child RJs, including the radio drama Chuppi Tod and the story telling segment Dhoom Pichak are particularly popular.
Noida Ke Saarthi is a unique programme hosted by autodrivers of the area, who discuss topics ranging from fares and the problems faced by their community, and also provide traffic updates.
Even community radio channels are not quite complete without a music element.
Initially, Salaam Namaste used to play film tracks and pay royalty, but to cut down on expenses, it started playing music from college bands, traditional and folk artistes, school children and local music labels.
“It serves two purposes,” says Chabaria. “Firstly, it gives a break to upcoming talent and secondly, we save money and at the same time provide original content.”
But the community the radio channel serves is still small. Almost three years since it started operations, Salaam Namaste’s reach remains limited within a 5-7 sq. km range.
Chabaria says the geographical constraint makes it difficult to develop innovative content.
Revenue generation is another concern. The project is funded entirely by the college as it doesn’t get any ads.
The only ads it airs are public service broadcasts produced inhouse.
“We want big and local retailers to come forward and help us by buying on-air time or sponsorships,” says Chabaria.
“In fact, we want government departments like DAVP (department of advertising and visual publicity), children and women’s welfare and tourism to give us ads,” Chabaria adds.