The UNESCO Chair on Community Media, University of Hyderabad coordinated the session for “People’s Right to Information and Community Media,” at the National Convention on People’s Right to Information held in Hyderabad on February 17, 2013.
The inability of mainstream media to adequately address the information needs of the p-eople, especially those of the marginalized in both rural and urban areas, is well known. While a continuous engagement with the mainstream media in order to render them more responsive is a necessity, the larger goal has been to reverse the hierarchical flow of information from the elite to the poor and to create opportunities for horizontal sharing of knowledge and promote awareness of socio-economic conditions of peer communities. It is in this latter context that demands for transparency and greater accountability in governance have gained a special salience.
The session, co-facilitated by Vipul Mudgal, Project Manager, Inclusive Media for Change, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Sukumar Muralidharan, Independent Journalist and Programme Manager, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), discussed the performance and modes of functioning of the mainstream media in contemporary times and the role community media could play in enhancing local governance and transparency.
The workshop looked into the ownership patterns, financial sustainability and its effect on content in the media. Sukumar Muralidharan expressed concern about the non-transparency in media and sought public disclosure of the finances of the media in the light of loss of faith of the public in the media given the cases of Paid News and Cash for Coverage scams.
Prof. Vinod Pavarala, emphasised the immediate need for integrating the right to information with the right to communicate in view of the shift from the paradigm of development to the paradigm of rights in the case of the Community Radio movement in India. Ramnath Bhat, Vice President, Community Radio Forum, India, argued for people’s right to access the airwaves in context of the Supreme Court judgement of 1995 which delineates ‘public good’ and ‘public interest’ as key criteria for spectrum allocation.
Three case studies – by video producers Chinna Narsamma and Algole Narsamma of the Community Media Trust of Deccan Development Society, Sultan Ahmed of Drishti and the case of CGNet Swara – were presented in the workshop to drive home the point that participatory media practices could be used effectively by not-so-empowered communities to address locally relevant issues, share information locally as well as globally and thus participate in the political processes of governance and espousing their opinion on a public platform.
The workshop, in discussion and deliberation with the participants drew up a host of recommendations which were presented at a plenary session of the NCPRI convention.
Mahaprajna Nayak & Aditya Deshbandhu