Voices for Change and Peace: Taking Stock of Community Radio in South Asia

Community broadcasters and community media advocates of South Asia have called for legislative reform and equitable distribution of spectrum for the growth of community radio along with frequency reservation for community radios in the sub-region. These and other recommendations were articulated at the South Asian seminar on community broadcasting, Voices for Change and Peace: Taking Stock of Community Radio in South Asia, a UNESCO-supported initiative held from 17 to 18 January 2013 in New Delhi, India.

Policy recommendations to include non-limited access in all bands of the spectrum and technology platforms, and de-licensing of low power community broadcasting were passed by seminar participants. Other recommendations address sustainability at grassroots and training. Setting up of a community radio fund, bridging resources at regional levels, including through existing platforms such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, developing training consortia and sharing of training capacities in the region are strategies underlined by equitable benefits to women and the marginalized.

The seminar welcomed community radio broadcasting leaders, advocates, policy makers, representatives of civil society groups, academics, and media activists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It addressed concerns emanating from the community radio sector such as restrictive policy frameworks, inadequate allocation of spectrum for communities, and the lack of a sustainable support system as well as democratization of media spaces in South Asia. Discussions in the seminar also focused on apprehensions over security arising out of the activities of a variety of non-state actors in South Asia, leading to a somewhat hesitant opening up of airwaves in certain areas. The seminar took stock of South Asian experiences with community radio, including its strong potential for social change and promotion of peace in the region.

The seminar was organized by the Asia Pacific Chapter of World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), in partnership with the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, Community Radio Forum of India and Indian Academy for Self Employed Women. It was supported by UNESCO and International Media Support.