An example of pathbreaking media
I read an interesting news report in thursday’s DNA about a weekly local news channel called Appan Samachar (Our News), which is a big hit in the area of Ramlila Gachhi and about a dozen adjoining villages of Muzaffarpur District in Bihar even though it’s been barely a month since its launch. A local social activist, Santosh Sarang, is behind it.
Unlike flashy studios of private news channels, its rural cousin works from an asbestos-roofed room having a wooden table, two chairs and a portable TV…Its reporters, Ruby Kumari and Anita Kumari (one 20, one a teenager), move around Ramlila Gachhi and its adjoining villages six days a week carrying a Sony handycam, a tripod and a microphone in hand to gather news. Later, they show a 45-minute bulletin on the TV using a video cassette player powered by a battery, at the weekly fair in the village.
Cool huh? I thought it was, considering that the girls are so young and doing on it all on their own. They meet the villagers, talk to the women (and naturally find it easier to get through as they are women themselves) and decide on the story. The fieldwork, the shooting, the editing….all of it is done by these brave young women. Brave because it isn’t the normal thing for two young girls to be going about doing these things…actually digging up problems and writing about them. They do take some villagers with them when they interview the women, (for security reasons) and they are careful not to be out after dusk.
And guess what, they cover real issues like development, women empowerment and human rights! We sure need media like this, and reporters who can go and talk about the real problems of villagers and present it without frills. Mainstream TV channels generally concentrate on urban problems. I am not blaming them because that is the audience the advertisers are targeting, and advertising is funding television to a large extent, particularly the free channels. (In developed markets the charges for cable are very high).
The BBC has reported on this new news channel too, here. They say:
Sometimes it (Appan Samachar) is shown on a projector, other times on hired video players and a large TV set…the centre of operations is a gloomy room at the remote Ramlila Gachi village on the crime-ridden banks of the Gandak river.
I cannot help but be impressed. Just consider these facts:
- Cell phone network reached Ramlila Gachi just a year ago
- The nearest hospital is 62km away
- The village ‘clinic’ is manned by a doctor who treats both humans and animals.
- The nearest police station is 20km away
- The village has had no electricity for the last four years, and has never had cable television and land phones.
- Villagers stock illegal firearms at home to defend themselves against the marauding dacoits and kidnappers.
The BBC writes:
In this bleak lawless boondocks of one of India’s poorest states, three young girls and a newly-wed woman cycle around to gather news for their programme. Carrying a low range Sony Handycam, a tripod and a microphone with the channel logo, they bump along on the dusty narrow village tracks to talk to people and shoot their stories.
The story of the courage and enterprise! If only we had more Rubys and Khushbus then perhaps the message will reach the big media too! The girls have hopes of making their little channel a national TV news channel one of these days and I wish them all the best. However one cannot help thinking that one of the reasons the villagers are hooked on to Appan Samachar is that there is no cable television. I dread to sound cynical but cannot help wondering what will happen when cable arrives!
I remember India had a fortnightly news ‘tape’ called Newstrack that was available before the advent of the news channels and this venture reminds me of that. Once the news channels came into our homes, Newstrack died.
Related Reading: Compare this media with the front pages of newspapers!