Community media: Not just for developing countries
Community radio continues to be an important source of information and a platform for exchange, giving voice to local groups – even in developed countries.
Radios Libres en Périgord (RLP) is one community radio broadcaster in central France that is doing just that, with the station recently wrapping up a weeklong program focused on ending racial discrimination in the region. As part of the initiative, UNESCO participated in a program discussing the Organization’s work in community media and radio’s potential for fostering tolerance.
“Local radio offers a meeting place for people and communities,” said Mirta Lourenço, Chief of Media Development at UNESCO. “Whether in France or Kiribati, it is always a public forum where citizens can raise issues, exchange their views and find common ground.”
Thanks to its volunteers, RLP broadcasts a wide range of programs of local relevance. The station takes special interest in the cultural and educational activities of the community, the fight against discrimination, and environmental and social issues. It is additionally involved in the urban rehabilitation of the poorer areas of the region and attempts to raise awareness for questions concerning migrants and minorities.
In spite of the vastly different contexts, RLP faces many of the same challenges as local radio stations in developing countries. Access to funding, a lack of skilled journalists, staff turnover and high competition from commercial media outlets are only some of the common obstacles that exist in the community media sector.
However, this local radio station is effectively dealing with their obstacles. Donations from its members and a number of public funding mechanisms in place are helping them to overcome financial difficulties. Staff problems are primarily surpassed with the aid of volunteers and engaging youth in their civil service duty. A planned transformation towards digital broadcasting, as well as an online presence through social media, podcasts and a dedicated website, will also contribute to keeping the station relevant and accessible to their audience.
Local radio stations can additionally make use of the many resources that UNESCO has made available, such as the Linking Generations through Radio toolkit, which provides a number of inclusive examples for youth as to how radio stations can incorporate them into their programming. UNESCO’s Community Media: A Good Practice Handbook further compiles a number of good practices for other local broadcasters to emulate.
Despite other forms of media – particularly digital media – having gained considerable momentum in past decades, radio continues to be the most popular medium in many parts of the world. Though most of UNESCO’s efforts focus on countries more at risk or in development, the Organization is committed to promoting media pluralism and diversity in all Member States.
For more information on UNESCO’s work in community media, click here.
- Mirta Lourenço, Chief of Media Development and Society (m.lourenco(at)unesco.org)