18.01.2013 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

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

On 17-18 January 2013, UNESCO New Delhi supported a regional seminar titled ‘Voices for Change and Peace: Taking Stock of Community Radio in South Asia’. Held in New Delhi, the event was organized in cooperation with the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, the Community Radio Forum of India, and the Indian Academy for Self Employed Women (IASW). The two-day seminar will be followed by a capacity-building workshop for 40 South Asian women community broadcasters.

The seminar reflected on South Asian experiences with community radio (CR), including the medium’s strong potential for social change and the promotion of peace in the region. It brought together nearly 90 community broadcasting leaders and advocates from across South Asia, including representatives of national associations, governments, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, along with journalists, social activists, media scholars and strategic partners of the CR sector in the region.

In his inaugural address, Dr Vinod Pavarala, the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, pointed out that there is an ‘urgent need to address not just poverty but voice poverty’ by moving towards ‘people-centred broadcasting’. The seminar explored the various ways in which CR could play an important role in this regard, and focused on the issues and challenges that the CR sector in several South Asian countries faces today. It included sessions on the CR policy environment in South Asia; perspectives from civil society; CR’s contribution to peace and conflict resolution; women’s empowerment and inclusion; and the freedom of expression. The event worked towards planning a few achievable actions that CR stations in South Asia could work on jointly or in coordination.

The seminar in New Delhi was both timely and necessary. A number of concerns have made the emergence and sustenance of a third tier of broadcasting (besides the public and commercial broadcasting sectors) in South Asia a particularly challenging task. Problems such as restrictive policy frameworks, inadequate allocation of spectrum for communities and the lack of a sustainable support system are among the issues that need to be addressed urgently in order to enable the genuine democratization of the media in South Asia. Apprehensions over security arising from the activities of a range of non-state actors in the region have also contributed to a somewhat hesitant opening up of airwaves in certain areas. ‘Voices for Change and Peace’ has made a significant contribution by examining the CR environment in individual South Asian countries, identifying common challenges, working towards establishing frameworks for action, and strengthening regional cooperation.

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