Q radio station is the latest business venture to openly target gay consumers in India, which has been broadcasting around the clock from Bangalore since September. The radio station follows on from other gay-friendly establishments in India, like travel companies, hotels and an online bookstore.
Q Radio— the brainchild of Radiowalla.in chief executive Anil Srivatsa—plays tunes by gay-friendly and gay artists in between talk shows that discuss LGBT issues. Several advocacy groups describe the country, as still deeply homophobic. Radiowalla.in, itself, is an online radio portal operating over 30 channels, which try to cater to underserved audiences.
According to LGBT activists, even with these new developments in the movement to a gay-friendly land of Oz, homosexuals in India still face discrimination and a lack of basic rights despite homosexuality being decriminalized in 2009.
“I think the general attitude is appalling even in the urban areas. We have the laws, but it doesn’t bring about social change immediately. Changing mindsets is what’s needed,” Srivatsa told India Real Time. “That’s one of the goals of the station.”
The radio station airs its programs in English and Hindi and is run by a mix of gay and heterosexual staff.
During a recent show, “LGBT”—which, in this case, stands for “Let’s Get Beyond Ties”—the singular-named hosts John and Sandy chatted with callers about live-in relationships. They also discussed Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s recent address to the United Nations General Assembly in which he described homosexuality as a threat to human existence.
On another show, a young gay man shared his coming out story with host Vaishalli Chandra, a former journalist and Q Radio’s current channel manager. “Lavender Life,” a two-hour program with host Mari, who also uses only one name, offers a platform for India’s lesbians to discuss and share their experiences.
“It’s nice to have people come out and share their stories because it gives hope to other people in that dilemma on whether they should come out or not,” host Ms. Chandra said.
More and more programs are being added to the schedule and leaders at the station are considering hosting a segment featuring people opposed to the practice of homosexuality.
“The thought behind that is we are looking at people who do have a different opinion,” Chandra told the press. “If you do not agree with us, then you can come on the channel and discuss why you do not agree with us. It’s about generating a healthy dialogue.”
A survey of over 7,000 young people in India (between 18 and 25) carried out in 2012 by the Hindustan Times, found that 76 percent of urban educated disagreed with this statement: “Homosexuality is an acceptable sexual preference.” However, a growing number of community-based support groups for LGBT people are being formed across India, according to leading gay rights activists.
Q Radio is currently being funded by a venture capital firm and promoters and Srivatsa says he wants the station to eventually make a profit just like any other business.
“Our investors need to get their money back, everyone needs to get a return on this,” he said.
For the moment, the focus of Q Radio is to build an audience and a good product. However, Srivatsa hopes to get gay-friendly advertisers onboard in the future, which has been difficult so far.
According to Leading gay activist Asok Row Kavi, the fact that the social stigma of being associated with homosexuals in India is still real.