"Communication can play a much greater role in enabling people to take control over their own lives, in enabling people and societies to set their own agendas in relation to political, economic and social development; and in enabling, in particular, the voices of the economically and politically marginalized to be amplified and channeled to mainstream public and political debate." DevMedia 2003 Based in local geographic areas or communities of interest, community media is accessible, in terms of production and use by citizens and in terms of the capabilities and costs involved.
In other words, community media enables citizens to be meaningfully involved in the creation of media content: there are few barriers to listening or viewing content; the overall process of media management is relatively simple compared with that for other forms of media; and, relatively speaking, the costs of production and distribution are low. Community media's relative technical accessibility is combined with a stated mandate for socio-cultural development.
The growth of community media, in regions such as South Asia and the Commonwealth countries of Africa, is based partly on the interest of governments and civil society groups in the explicit developmental orientation of community media — specifically, how this media contributes to social change and local development by giving citizens greater chance to participate in public life and to be empowered by opportunities to voice ideas, concerns and experience. The field of community media like community radio and Community TV is often framed by freedoms associated with free speech, expression and information. It has most famously been described as the voice of the voiceless. Expression and what Latin American scholars have long identified as the "right to communicate" are closely linked to the empowerment and agency of citizens, which underlie any type of participatory development. Literature about community media highlights the media's role as local watchdog, which favours press functions, reporting and news in the service of keeping local government accountable.
The community radio movement started in Bangladesh in 1998. After a long journey of advocating and lobbying with the government line departments, organizing a number of awareness-raising meetings, gatherings and seminars, finally the government has approved and given permission to 14 community radio stations to broadcasting programs. It is no doubt an admirable decision of the government. This agenda was included in the election manifesto of Awami League. Recently, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) took the initiative to publish a booklet on how the existing stations started working, how they function, what possible impacts they might create on the community and so on. I was given the responsibility to edit the Book. The Minister for Information and Cultural Affairs launched the book, as Chief Guest at the Bangladesh Community Radio Conference on February 25 at IDB Bhaban, Dhaka. The conference was organized by BNNRC.
BNNRC is a common networking platform for all the CR initiators and involved in capacity strengthening of community radio professionals of the country. It promotes advocacy with the government in relation to community radio with other organizations since its emergence in 2000. It addresses the radio access issue, helping to bridge the information gap. At the moment, positive and supportive condition is prevailing in our country. The government has announced the Community Radio Installation, Broadcast & Operation Policy. Bangladesh is the second country in South Asia to formulate a policy for Community Radio. Separate reports were prepared on 14 Community Radio stations by local journalists. I also visited some of the stations personally. I shared experiences with station staffs. I found some positive response within the community to the radio stations of their area. At certain places, it seems even greater than FM commercial radio channels. At the moment, there are six FM (commercially-run) radio stations. These are: ABC Radio, Radio Today, Radio Furti, Radio Amar, Radio Dhaka and People's Radio. They don't have any broadcast boundary. With this freedom, Radio Today and Radio Furti have already started their transmission in big cities outside Dhaka.
ABC Radio is likely to broadcast programs in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar this year. Whereas the community radio policy has fixed its transmission area within the 17 km radius, which may cover one or more upazila of a district. In 1st phase of 14 stations, Community Radio Padma 99.2 FM was set up in Rajshahi city. The Center for Communication & Development (CCD), an organization promoting mass communication and journalism, is the initiator of this station. It started its formal transmission on October 7 as the 1st Community Radio station of the country. Community Radio Mukti 99.2 FM, initiated by an NGO-Landless Distressed Rehabilitation Organization (LDRO), started test transmission on October 31 (2011) from Bogra. Naogaon Human Rights Development Association, an NGO of Naogaon, is starting test transmission of "Community Barendra Radio 99.2 FM". RDRS Bangladesh. a reputed NGO started broadcasting Community Radio Chilmari 99.2 FM (set up at Chilmari Upazila) on January 5 this year. "Shono Bahe, Jago Bahe" is their slogan. Community Radio Mahananda 98.8 was initiated in Chapainawabganj by Proyash Manobik Unnayan Society, an NGO of the area. It has started transmission on October 28, 2011. BRAC, the largest NGO of the subcontinent has initiated, Community Radio Pallikantha 99.2, at Moulvibazar. It started formal transmission on January 12 this year.
Mass Line Media Center, a media organization, started test transmission of Community Radio LokoBetar 99.2 at Amtali of Barguna district on May 27, 2011. Nalta Hospital and Community Health Foundation established Community Radio Nalta 99.2 at Kaliganj upazila of Satkhira dstrict. It has started its transmission on May 13 last year. Broadcasting Asia of Bangladesh, a TVET organization, initiated Community Radio Sundarban 98.8 at Koyra upazila of Khulna. It has started transmission on February 15 this year. Community Radio Jhinuk 99.2, initiated by Srijoni Bangladesh, started transmission on December 17 last year at Jhenaidah Sadar.Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) established Community Radio Sagargiri 99.2 at Sitakunda in Chittagong district. It started its transmission on November 24 last year. ACLAB, an NGO, will soon start Community Radio Naf 99.2 FM at Tekhnaf of Cox's Bazar. Environment Council Bangladesh (EC Bangladesh) established Community Radio Bikrampur 99.2 at Munshiganj. The stations are broadcasting programs as per their capacity and convenience. However Radio Padma may be an exception, for they are broadcasting programs 18 hours in a day and presenting news per hour. Meanwhile, this radio, by broadcasting programs on diversified issues, has made an enormous impact and gained popularity in the community.
Now 14 Community Radio stations are broadcasting 97.5 hours of programs for rural people and 536 youth and young women are working with community radio as rural broadcasters. Most of the programs deal with education, information, local entertainment and development motivation. Recently the Ministry of Information declared the National Strategy for Implementation of Community Radio Installation, Broadcast and Operation in Bangladesh. We hope by 2015 we will have 60 community radio stations around the country and by 2021 we will have 400 community radios all over the country. Most of the stations have scanty resources, particularly human resources, equipment, creative ideas and program production capacity. Some of the stations are found quite organized; having soundproof studio and somewhere the situation seems reverse. But the local people are now aware of their radio stations.
On one hand, community radio plays a significant role in information sharing on important development issues like agriculture, education or health and, on the other hand, it is a popular source of entertainment. Community Radio has become a pioneering example of people's participation in mass media. On top of that, the people of the community now consider community radio as their own media. They feel pride and pleasure in this sense of ownership. Within a few months of broadcasting of Krishi Radio at Amtali, revolutionary changes through information flow could be seen in the lives and livelihood of the farmers in the area.
The radio programs had an impact and accelerated the rural economy of the area. Ten voluntary groups have been formed there by involving local farmers and fisherman. They have been provided training on capacity development so that they would act as news workers by sending different types of information (including farmers' problems) to radio stations, using cell phones. Radio Pallikantha has become so popular that the people of the community purchase radio sets and invite the others to listen. The radio clubs arrange radio listening for the community. Since the programs are broadcasted in their own dialect, the community people consider the station as their own. Zahid Hasan, an auto rickshaw driver of Chilmari stated, "We have listened radio from the outside throughout our lives, now we listen to our performers sing in our own station. This is really a great experience. Upazila Chilmari is constituted of a number of char islands mostly, where boat is the only means to connect to the upazila sadar. In the evening, when boats do not ply and the char dwellers become disconnected from the main land, only Radio Chilmari connects them. Likewise, Radio Jhinuk gives special focus on suicidal issue, since this is a serious social problem in Jhenaidah. In mainstream (traditional) mass media, we usually listen, read or see the lives and stories of the privileged community. The disadvantaged community can only visit the media when any disaster occurs or any rare success story happens in their life.
A long-cherished dream has now been fulfilled that community people have got their own mass media, where they will operate and control, perform, listen and share their own pleasure and pain, disseminate weather forecasts or market prices in their own dialect. That dream is now a reality. If we can have at least 60 community radios by 2015 and 400 community radios by 2021 for a country of 1.6 billion people, that would be a true achievement. We can dream of community radio becoming he mainstream media in the disadvantaged areas of the country. Community radio is a successful step to the Right to Information. Now is the time we can start Community Television.
Mainstream television channels, now captured by the national and multinational corporate agencies, are mostly busy for business and advocating for their own initiators where marginalized and deprived peoples' agenda is neglected. So we need Community Television immediately to change this situation and focus on the needs, views, struggles of marginalized people and help them solve their problems on their own. As community radio is a new intervention and still in testing mode, one may ask how can we think of community television at this stage? Is it relevant? The fact is that after struggling on this issue for last 12 years, we have convinced the government about community radio. If we don't start planning this issue now, it will not be possible to start telecasting community television any time soon. Community Television will not be a competitor of mainstream television, but it will be a supplement media. Community television can start with just a little equipment. Community television is like community radio. It needs very simple equipment and a few members of staff.
It could be run locally with the help of cable line operators, till the government permits community-based telecasting service and gives them terrestrial license. Community television can communicate effectively and directly with the community. It will be more powerful and popular than community radio because people can hear and watch events. Participation will be higher than in community radio. The challenge of running community television is having equipment and skilled manpower. Community Television needs skilled manpower, but that is not impossible. Nepal is socio-economically weaker than Bangladesh but recently has start running community television successfully. So we believe our dream for community television can materialise. We are confident about this.. Television has the advantage of visual images as well as narrative. Community television should have the potential to communicate directly with its limited audience and thereby tailor the messages effectively. According to DevMedia 2003, communication programming has, very simplistically, tended to fulfill three roles in development thinking and practice: To inform and persuade people to adopt certain behaviour and practices that are beneficial to them; to enhance the image and profile of the work of organizations involved in development with a view to boosting the credibility of their work; raising more funding and generally improving public perceptions In order for community media to be effective, it should: make people agents of their own change, support dialogue and debate on key issues of concern sensitively place information into the dialogue and debate, focus on social norms, social policies, culture and a supportive social-cultural environment. negotiate the best way forward, in a partnership between the community and the station · get the people most effected by issues of concern playing a central role in local development rather than acting as technical experts for outside agencies. To ensure the creation and exhibition of locally produced, locally reflective community programming; To foster a greater diversity of voices and alternative choices by facilitating new entrants at the local level, To promote the development of rural Bangladesh identity and reflecting cultural diversity; To promote the availability of television programs about matters of local significance; and ensuring diversity in broadcasting services in the transition to digital broadcasting The role of the community TV should be primarily of a public service non profit nature, facilitating self-expression through free and open access by members of the community.
Community TV should ensure a high level of citizen participation and community involvement in community programming; actively promote citizen access to the community channel and provide and promote the availability of related training programs; provide feedback mechanisms, such as advisory boards, to encourage viewer response to the range and types of programs aired; seek out innovative ideas and alternative views; provide a reasonable, balanced opportunity for the expression of differing views on matters of public concern; reflect the official languages, ethnic and Aboriginal composition of the community; provide coverage of local events; and publicize the program schedule. Core Values: Promote positive self-images among underrepresented youth & communities by providing a platform for self-representation and means for dissemination to large audiences, encouraging them to overcome the realities of poverty, inequality, and injustice. Stimulate youth development, cultivating critical thinking, interpersonal and leadership skills, strengthening literacy, and fostering the development of strong work habits and real world skills. Empower youth to articulate their own truths, to seek and develop independent perspectives, and to involve their communities in solving the issues that matter to them most. Engage underserved youth in quality, sequential technology and arts training, and teaches them to apply this training to explore positive values and attitudes through creative expression BNNRC aims to provide the following for its constituents over time, as possible in regard to available resources and priorities as identified in Annual Training Plans.
BNNRC will: (a) provide appropriate training in television production and transmission to groups and individuals. (b) promote and assist the development of Community Television Groups (c) support the access of its constituents through the provision of training in specific skill areas. (d) assist with the training of program providers in the operations and goals of the Programming Department; (e) assist program providers to become familiar with and have access to relevant information regarding the production, administrative, classification and technical requirements of the station; (f) make available to its constituents information on the necessary elements for program production and broadcast, including knowledge, competencies, resources, costs and support (g) provide training to enable program providers to submit programs to at least the minimum standard as within the guidelines of the station, the current Community Television Code of Practice, and relevant legislation applying to community television. (h) where possible, provide training to facilitate those communities under-represented in station programming in their capability to produce. Opportunities for Community Broadcasting: There are many prospects for the community broadcasting in the country that includes increasing numbers of applicants who may apply for establishment of community radios, enlightening possibilities for lowering tariffs and fees for community radios and especially the support indicated by the government in the national ICT policy and Community Radio policy . Specifically, the prospects include:
There is an increasing commitment by the private sector and NGOs in supporting establishment and supporting of community radio and TV; & Digital Bangladesh Strategy. The writer is CEO, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication firstname.lastname@example.org