Sona FM 89.6 – Community Radio goes Urban

L – SONA FM_Shanthini, Director of Social Impact & Head, Valliappa Foundation
C – SONA_FM_Presenters Illakiya and Balan interviewing Dhadi Balaji, a Tamil comic and activist on Launch Day
R – SONA FM_Chocko Valliappa Managing Trustee Valliappa Foundation speaking live on Launch Day

Shanthini Dawson, Head of Valliappa Foundation and a veteran International Development professional introduces, “Valliappa Foundation (VF), the social impact arm of the Sona Group, primarily focuses on community development, social entrepreneurship and collective action to uplift society’s disadvantaged. On 21st November 2022 we launched community radio (CR) Sona FM 89.6, an initiative that aims to give the communities of Salem district a platform and a voice. With the help of People’s Power Collective (PPC), Sona FM  is steadily becoming its ‘Jewel in the Crown’.”

“Saritha Thomas (PPC) and I met serendipitously and instantly seemed to be on the same page. PPC has been a great asset in helping build the team at Sona FM, and within six months our work is being validated by those monitoring the CR space, affirming Sona FM as VF’s flagship enterprise. PPC impressed us with the 21-day CR training. The transformation in trainees in such a short period of time was amazing. Initially, a target audience survey led us to understand that 35 to 60 years old being the largest segment. Programs being in Tamil sits well with the listener. We have found the right formula, the right people. We’ve gone about setting up the radio station the way we believe it should be done. Thank you so much, PPC! Audio communication is coming back in a big way with people realising its power and potential,” says Shanthini who is also founder of Suchetadhama, peace activist and former senior advisor to the Minister of Rural Development and Minister of Education in Afghanistan, among wearing many other feathers in her cap.

PPC’s founder Saritha adds, “Salem, a busy industrial town had many naysayers say ‘CR won’t work here the way you enabled it in sleepy Rudraprayag District’. On the contrary, Sona FM has enabled us to make inroads into the community and truly get their pulse and ensure our content and storytelling meet their needs. We will continue to work with Sona FM as part of our incubation model until January 2024. Post that, we see them too joining the movement of not only successfully running their own station but also impacting others too. We’ll support them on this as well.”

As part of celebrating World Radio Day on Feb 13th 2023 with the UN set theme ‘Radio and Peace’, Sona FM did some pathbreaking programming around Child Marriage, Gender Equality and respect for the Transgender community and Youth and Mobile phone addiction among other community need-based issues. These were addressed via live group discussions and interviews with positive feedback.

Saritha travels back to India at least twice a year to lead training programs and go forward with partners like Sona FM. Meanwhile, PPC consultants on the ground, have her interacting daily with the team, and weekly with all Sona FM trainees.

Shanthini concludes, “Sona FM has gone beyond my expectations. While funded by Vee Technologies CSR program, Sona FM is gradually moving towards self-sufficiency. We got our first commercial, non-Sona Group advertisement recently. We are blessed to get the full support of Chocko Valliappa, Vice-Chairman of the Group because of his passion for radio that began during his childhood.”

Whatapp: +91-8297676543
Email: [email protected]

With Amita Sarwal

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