- 6 June 2014
Two day workshop was organized by UNICEF in partnership with AROI (Association of Radio Operators of India), as part of its efforts to build awareness on Routine immunization.Over 40 Radio jockeys and National Programming Heads of private FM radio stations gathered in the capital on 6 June for a first-of-its kind brainstorming and hands-on training workshop on Routine Immunization (RI) for radio professionals.The two-day workshop brought together India’s top FM players from 9 priority states to stand up for a common cause- saving children’s lives from vaccine preventable diseases.Organized as part of the World Immunization Week, the workshop focused on how radio’s unparalleled reach and dedicated listenership could be leveraged to highlight the importance of vaccination for saving children’s lives.
Speaking at the occasion, Ms Anuradha Prasad, President AROI said, “FM radio can play a significant role in promoting important social issues while weaving them in regular programming.”
Prof. M. Obaid Siddiqui, Director, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia University said that radio has always been an effective platform to spread information on social causes. “People can listen to radio anytime and anywhere they want. It is also a free medium.Currently, the radio sector is witnessing a boom, with private radio operating in 91 cities across the country, where there is about 70 to 80 percent radio penetration. There were 245 private FM radio stations operational by March 2012, besides the public service broadcaster – All India Radio (AIR), serving 99.18 percent of the population.UNICEF is leveraging the strengths of FM radio to ensure a sustained discourse on immunization”
Ms Caroline Den Dulk, Chief of Communication, UNICEF India, said, “As part of our media engagement, we realise the importance of engaging with radio as it has enabled us to reach key messages to audiences across the country.”
Of the 27 million children born in India every year, some 7.2 million remain unvaccinated. These children are mainly from the most marginalized sections, living in difficult-to-reach areas with lack of access to essential services.
Giving a brief on India’s Universal Immunization Program (UIP), Ms Genevieve Begokian, Chief of Health UNICEF India said the program is one of the largest public health initiatives in the world, in terms of geographical reach and number of children covered. Highlighting radio’s critical role in the fight against polio, Dr Sunil Bahl of the World Health Organization urged radio professionals to join forces for raising awareness on RI.
Top Radio professional RJ Simran Kohli who is the creative consultant for this initiative, has contributed to making the workshop more attuned to the needs and requirements of radio as a medium. She has initiated an online forum to bring all the RJs working on the issue together on Facebook page radio4child.
Panelists Mr Anand Raj,National Programming Head, RED FM, Mr Tapas Sen, Chief Programming Officer, Radio Mirchi and Ms Pallavi Rao, Group Head, Radio Mirchi welcomed the UNICEF-AROI initiative and said that FM radio was not all about music and entertainment. Each FM channel has its own target groups, its own brand positioning and was doing its bit in various program formats, they emphasized.
Prof Pervaiz Alam, Dean, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Apeejay Stya University, who also spoke at the conference, said that radio has a very strong connect with the people. “The good part is you cannot teach anyone how to do good radio. But you can tell the radio professionals what are the areas that need the personal touch, that need special attention and that can trigger change,” he observed.
Radio Mirchi’s RJ Naved, whose pranks on Mirchi Murga are hugely popular among listeners, said,”Apart from entertaining their audience, RJs too can act responsibility and use the platform that radio gives them to take up social causes.
Dipping their palms in colours, participating RJs took the “pledge of life”, promising to raise awareness on RI on airwaves. RJ from Rajiv Nair of Big FM, Bhubaneswar very enthusiastically said, “Improving immunization coverage across poor performing states like Odisha is very important. Through my evening show that targets the youth and those driving back from office, I hope to get the message across.”
Awards have been instituted by UNICEF-AROI for the best program innovations and communication bytes on RI.In the coming months, this national initiative will be expanded to states through a series of nine workshops in states with lowest immunization rates, namely Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.The workshop also came out with a set of recommendations that will be disseminated to policy makers, civil society institutions, and media research institutions.Certificates of participation were distributed at the end of workshop.Ms. Monica Chaturvedi, Senior Advisor, Strategic Communciations, ITSU also took part in the initiative.