Community Radio (CR) broadcasting has advanced from being a movement into a sector with guidelines for its operation and broadcast. Yet the sector remains under-supported in critical ways when it comes to diversity of participation. CR sector was born out of a fifteen-years need to give representation to marginalized and alternative voices. Thus it becomes important to evaluate the sector’s activities and check for gaps in the participation and diversity vis-à-vis different communities. Focusing on this aspect, Ms. Venu Arora, Executive Director of Ideosync Media Combine presented the working paper titled “Documentation, Research & Evaluation” at the National Consultation on ‘Strengthening Community Radio In India’ on April 12, organized by UNESCO and UNESCO Chair on Community Media. The panelists comprising of Mr. Shivaji Yadav, Prof. Kanchan K Malik, Dr. Bidu Bhusan Dash and Mr. Bijoy Patra took the topic forward and, highlighted the importance of democratic circulation of information on capacity building, technology decisions and policy guidelines by linking it with the practice of documentation, research and evaluation.
In this paper, documentation refers to the creation and maintenance of records about broadcasting and the ongoing operations of the CRS. It involves establishing facts, data collection, and coming up with new conclusions through well-articulated methodologies. Maintaining logs and tracks of produced content and contributions of the CR members, be it inside the CRS or outside of it, will help in overall research, monitoring, and reflections for the sector. It is important to engage with the CR listeners, volunteers and employees of CRS along with researching on the audience, their participation, and instances of social change that has happened within the sector. The paper presented at the National Consultation also proposed to widen the scope of policy research by emphasizing on the need to study implications of national and state policies, along with the study of implications of the CR guidelines.
Evaluation of CR efforts in terms of participatory practices and knowledge generation should be done on national as well as individual organizational level to establish if the aspirations of the sector have been achieved or not. Evaluation of CR work requires setting different benchmarks which can be done by holding multi-stakeholder consultation processes to arrive at priority areas for evaluation. Partnership with researchers and institutions with specialized skills in research and analysis can help articulate the effectiveness of CR. Some work has been done by the CRS staff and volunteers to develop CR ethical guidelines but this should be taken forward by involving multiple entities to create an identity for the sector. A self-regulatory body having participation of not just CR members but also of academicians and, research organizations working with the sector will help in the evolution of policy guidelines that are distinct from state-run or commercial media.
The working paper recommends strengthening the existing practices of sharing and learning within the CR sector, in concurrence with an emphasis on horizontal learning by deploying processes that facilitate exchange visits among different organizations in the CRS. This can be done through Self-Assessment and Peer-Review tools like CRCIT and the Self-Assessment Guide which would help in co-learning and continuous improvement. A CR Consortium should be worked on by the sector that will formulate a code of ethics that reflect the non-negotiable principles of the CR.
Read the entire working paper on Documentation, Research and Evaluation.
Highlights of panel discussion on ‘Documentation, Research & Evaluation’:
Presenting the working paper on ‘Learning from CR in India: Research, Documentation, and Evaluation’, Venu Arora (Ideosync Media Combine) said that documentation would enable reflection on practice and make CRs more transparent and accountable to their community. Amitabh Behar (National Foundation for India) held the chair of the session with panelists Shivaji Yadav (Mann Deshi Tarang Vahini, Mhaswad), Prof. Kanchan K. Malik (University of Hyderabad), Dr. Bidu Bhusan Dash (Savitribai Phule Pune University) and Bijoy Patro (Development Alternatives) who collectively urged that CRs should follow a qualitative and subjective approach to documentation. A good documentation of operations and practices will help CRs to successfully interpret the ways in which people construct their meanings of terms like empowerment and change.
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