Kheda Communication Project

Electronic Journalism

Kheda Communication Project

The Kheda Communications Project or KCP is a field laboratory that aimed at the development and local communication in Kheda district of Gujarat. This project began in 1975 and continued till 1990. The site chosen for the experiment was Kheda district, which is an area near the SAC headquarters in Ahmedabad. Kheda Communications Project is believed to be a milestone in the history of Indian television. The Development and Education Communication Unit managed this project and produced the development and educational programmes that involved the local audience. This project was the tested for the production of research based participatory development programmes receiving worldwide recognition and acceptance.

Kheda Communication Project was yet another pioneering experiment using television for educational purposes in India. Kheda Communication Project had some special features that made the project truly special in the realm of Indian Television. The hardware of Kheda Communication Project consisted of one low-power transmitter located in Pij village, about 50 kilometers south of Ahmedabad, which was connected to a local studio, the local Doordarshan station, and to a satellite earth station in Ahmedabad. Thus Kheda Communication Project could broadcast either local television programmes or national satellite television programmes. Around 650 community television sets were provided to 400 villages and also installed in public places like schools, where village audiences gathered in the evenings to view the broadcasts. Technicians periodically toured these villages to get service and repair the television sets.

Kheda district comprises some 1,000 villages with over three million inhabitants. In recent decades, it has become a major center for milk production in India, as part of the so-called "White Revolution". The KCP collaborated with extension agencies working in dairying, agriculture, and health services, and with local banks, cooperatives, and employment exchanges. Thus, the development in Kheda district facilitated the use of information transmitted by the television broadcasts. The Kheda Communication Project was independent of commercial interests, as it depended mainly on government funds for financial support. Managed by the Space Application Center, it enjoyed a great deal of political autonomy from the national government, and the support of the state government. The Kheda Communication Project greatly depended on audience research by conducting assessments of village audiences and by carrying out formative and summative evaluations of Kheda television programs.

The venture promoted rural development and social change at the local level. Audience participation was vastly encouraged at all levels. Villagers were involved as actors, writers, and visualisers in the production of television programs dealing with such local issues as exploitation, caste discrimination, alcoholism, minimum wages, co-operatives, local and national elections. Television serials, folk drama, puppet shows, and other popular local formats were used to continue issues such as family planning, gender equality, and village sanitation. Chatter Mota (Wise Elder) and Nari Tu Narayani (Woman You Are Powerful) were two popular entertainment-education serials produced by Kheda Communication Project with the lively participation of its audience members. A campaign approach was followed, thus, synchronising television programs with local efforts by the development agencies.

The Kheda Project was instrumental in decentralizing television broadcasting in India. Kheda Communication Project received the prominent 1UNESCO Prize in 1984 for rural communication efficiency. However, the Indian government did not replicate the Kheda Communication Project community-based television model in other regions of India. Instead, in 1985, when a high-powered transmitter was commissioned in Ahmedabad with a range that covered Kheda district, the government decreed that the Kheda transmitter should be shifted to Chennai in order to facilitate a second entertainment channel for its urban residents. Spending money on running a rural community-based communication project was considered to be useless, when advertising incomes can easily come from metro audiences.

The Kheda Communication Project later demonstrated the missed out opportunities to capitalise the lessons of SITE in utilizing television for social progress. The Space Application Center designed these hardy television sets with easily replaceable fuses, and sealed them to reduce problems of vibration during transportation and the penetration of dust and moisture. Chicken-mesh antennae and television sets represent examples of how technology can be reconfigured to meet rural needs, benefiting the most disadvantaged audience segments. Kheda Communication Project reflected the idea of "limited rebroadcast" and inherited the technology of direct broadcasting. This network was widely used for local village communication in Gujarat.

Last modified: Thursday, 29 March 2012, 11:29 AM