UNESCO’s Section for Media Development and Society organized on 14 and 15 September at its Headquarters, an international seminar on community media sustainability. The two-day event brought together more than 80 people representing more than 33 countries, who pooled their experience to produce a set of recommendations aimed at strengthening community radio as a sector.
Mr Hasanul Haq Inu, Minister of Information of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, participated in the conference, and highlighted “a combination of top-down and bottom-up methods to sustain community media – to ensure that both fee waivers by government and notable contributions from beneficiaries themselves contribute to the development of the Sector.”
Bangladesh recently adopted a National Broadcasting Policy (2014) and along with the Right to Information Act and the National ICT Policy (both 2009) is facilitating an environment to boost community radio broadcasting across the country.
“The seminar was an opportunity to exchange ideas, to learn what the Member States of UNESCO, media professionals and national regulators can do to make community media sustainable,” said Mirta Lourenço, Chief, Media Development and Society Section. For some participants it was also an occasion to step away from their immediate context and obtain a new form of appreciation for their work and commitment to community broadcasting.
Over several sessions, national regulators from countries including Argentina, Morocco and Benin reported on the relevant laws in their countries and how those are applied. Other participants, involved in actively practicing and promoting community media, reported and shared wide ranging accounts of policy reform, innovative practice, funding mechanisms, opportunities and constraints. A wide range of policy and funding issues were discussed and respective recommendations were presented.
A compilation of the recommendations points to the effort required by multiple stakeholders including Governments, Regulators, UNESCO, the International Community and Community Media Outlets and Associations. They intend to inform policy makers about actions that are required to strengthen community media and thereby enlarge free, independent and pluralistic media. A final report summarizing key points of the seminar and will be made available shortly.
The international seminar entitled "Community Media Sustainability: Strengthening Policies and Funding,” was implemented in response to the UNESCO’s programme and budget approved for the period 2014-2017. It is directly linked to Expected Result 2: facilitation of pluralistic media, “including by adoption of gender-sensitive policies, and through support for strengthened community media policy”.
Speaking in the conference opening session, the Director of the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger, representative of the Director-General of UNESCO, said, “A free, pluralistic and independent media system must include free and independent community media." He also underlined that safety of journalists, gender equality in and through media, as well as media and information literacy, are integral components of pluralism.