Sunday, October 7, 2012

Community Radio and Development


Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting content that is popular to a local audience but which may often be overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters. (UNESCO 2002), can reach a large number of poor people because it is affordable and uses little electricity which is low supply in many countries and barely affordable for many poor. It gives a voice to the community they serve with programmes in local languages, respecting local culture, traditions and interests. And it facilitates dialogue within the community; while on a national level it encourages diversity, creativity and citizens’ participation in democratic processes. Community Radio provides a counterbalance to the increasing globalization and commercialization of media as most TV and radio stations, including public stations, are concentrated in urban areas.

In the more remote, rural areas, Community Radio stations are often the only media available, where they are listened to by large parts of the population. Community Radio stations fill the gap left by national and commercial media, and reach local audiences the national media ignore. They fulfill the role of public broadcaster, informing the public at a local level, and representing their views. In this way, they give a voice to the voiceless, enabling people to speak and make their opinions, grievances and ideas known to those who have the power to make decisions.Community radio is confined to a small geographical area. It depends on low power transmission covering not more than 20-30 km. radius. It serves a community which uses common resources for livelihood, has common development issues and concerns, which are relatively localized, nevertheless connected to national and regional development goals.

Community radio is a vibrant community broadcasting system to enhance pluralism and diversity. It is a truly people’s radio that perceives listeners not only as receivers and consumers, but also as active citizens and creative producers of media content. This form of radio is fully consistent with the letter and spirit of the Milan Declaration on Communications media have a responsibility to help sustain the diversity of the World’s cultures and languages and that they should be supported through legislative, administrative and financial measures. Community radio is distinguished by three essential principles. Non profit making, community ownership and management and community participation. 

Community radio is also characteristics by its limited local reach, low power transmission and programming content that reflects the educational developmental and socio-cultural needs of the specific community it serves. For the purpose of community radio, a community is defined as a non-sectarian group of individuals who are traditionally bound and share a common socio-economic and cultural interest.

Agriculture being one of the major activity in rural areas, has always been a highly knowledge-intensive sector requiring continuous information flow. Farmers’ quest for authentic, credible and usable information both from established systems and traditional practices is ever increasing in this fluctuating global environment, to operate efficiently and compete economically. The rapid changes happening around with WTO/globalization, uncontrolled urbanization, uncertainty in climate change, discerning consumer segment and continued farm crisis emphasize the importance of timely, appropriate and need based information and knowledge to meet myriad developmental challenges.

Effective extension, education and communication services are probably some of the key strategies for sustaining agricultural growth, strengthening food security and combating hunger and malnutrition. However, diverse socio-cultural backgrounds, linguistic barriers, geographical remoteness and differential incentives make the task of information dissemination challenging. Agricultural extension is the vehicle or system for delivering useful information to farmers and assisting those farmers to develop requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to make use of this information or technology effectively. In recent times advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are revolutionizing agriculture extension by offering various technological options such as television, internet, mobile, telephone etc.

Among the three main categories of mass communication tools for agricultural extension such as radio, television and print media, the importance of radio for agricultural extension cannot be denied. Radio is a powerful communication tool; this form of participatory communication has proved to be very successful as a tool for social and economic development at grass root level. The local community needs which are often neglected by the mainstream media could be adequately addressed by community radio, even farmer to farmer extension can be easily made possible through adequate capacity building.

Experience with community radio has shown the potential for agricultural extension to benefit from both the reach and the relevance that local broadcasting can achieve through participatory communication approaches. Extension workers use radio for communicating information on new methods & techniques, giving timely information about the control of crop pests & diseases, weather, market news, etc. For this purpose, talks, group discussions, folksongs, dialogues & dramas are usually organised.

Radio initiatives as part of broader communication for development strategies have been used by various international agencies like UNESCO, UNICEF and FAO of the United Nations since 1960’s. The FAO developed the Strategic Extension Campaign (SEC) methodology in many countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America in order to support the local extension workers.

- Special thanks to Arpita Sharma

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