RTI activist Aruna Roy addressing the seminar held in New Delhi

RTI activist Aruna Roy addressing the seminar held in New Delhi

The UNESCO Chair on Community Media (University of Hyderabad) and AMARC Asia-Pacific, in collaboration with UNESCO, International Media Support, Community Radio Forum of India and the Indian Academy of Self Employed Women, organized a two day
seminar on “Voices for Change and Peace: Taking Stock of Community Radio in South Asia,” in New Delhi on January 17-18, 2013. About 60 activists, academics, advocates of
community radio (CR) as well as eminent journalists from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Maldives participated in the seminar.

The Group included Ashish Sen, President, AMARC Asia Pacific, Bangalore, Vinod Pavarala, UNESCO Chair on Community Media, University of Hyderabad, Stalin K., President, Community  Radio Forum, India, Goa, AHM Bazlur Rahman, Bangladesh Aruna Roy, MKSS, Rajasthan, Kalpana Sharma, columnist/author, Mumbai, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Journalist and political commentator, Delhi, Patricia Mukhim – Shillong Times, Shillong, Sanjaya Mishra, Director,   CEMCA, Delhi among several other CR enthusiasts.

The group noted that the CR scene in South Asia is as diverse as the region. India, which is home to about 145 community radio stations today, the majority of which are run by educational institutions, is grappling with a community radio policy that is almost a decade old. Despite having the oldest community radio policy in the South Asian region, the growth of the sector in India has been sluggish. Bureaucratic procedures, the formidable setting up costs, and the demands of building people’s capacities for broadcasting, among other things, have been thwarting the growth of community
radio in the country. Nepal, on the other hand, has a thriving community radio sector, but  remains to formalize a CR policy. Recent attempts in Sri Lanka to promote
independent community radio broadcasting may finally take it beyond state-managed CR projects such as the Kothmale Radio. Bangladesh, with a few stations on
air, has been treading a cautious path, seeing CR primarily as a medium to address
issues of development and disaster management. There have been active conversations
in other South Asian countries like Maldives, Bhutan, Pakistan and Afghanistan about
the exciting possibilities that CR can bring into their respective national mediascapes.

The Group articulated several concerns that make the emergence and sustenance
of a third tier of community broadcasting in the South Asian region a 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 for genuine democratization of media spaces in South
Asia.  Apprehensions over security arising out of the activities of a variety of non-state actors in South Asia have also contributed to a somewhat hesitant opening up of airwaves in certain areas.
Urging the need for an enabling and equitable environment for community radio in the region, the group worked on a ‘Recommendations for a more Democratic Environment for Community Radio in South Asia.’ The detailed recommendations that emerged from this consultation are available @ http://blog.uccommedia.in/uploads/2013/02/Voices-for-Change-Peace-Recommendations-for-CR-in-South-Asia_Final-Feb-6-2013.pdf

Report compiled by Kanchan K. Malik
and Preeti Raghunath