As community radio in Bangladesh steps into its tenth year in 2018, hopes are high for its future in the country. Broadcasters await the implementation of an updated policy that will allow advertising which will, in return provide much needed finances for the operations of radio stations. In addition, in an effort to reach a wider audience, the plans for the implementation of community television, spearheaded by the Bangladesh NGOs Networking for Communication (BNNRC), are already in motion.

“Knowledge creation, knowledge preservation, knowledge dissemination and knowledge utilization/transformation” have been key aims of the community radio sector in Bangladesh, says AHM Bazlur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer at BNNRC. As a new decade begins, the aim is to continue building on this foundation in the interest of empowering marginalized societies for a stronger and better Bangladesh.

“One hundred and thirty-five hours of total broadcast per day via 17 community radio stations. Over six million listeners tuning into approximately 490 different programmes per week. Over two hundred grass-roots individuals trained per year, along with a thousand active youth and youth women participants.” These are just some of the statistics about community radio in Bangladesh provided by BNNRC.

The movement for community radio in Bangladesh emerged in 1998. This led to the implementation of the Community Radio Installation, Broadcast and Operation Policy in 2008 and the first station went on air in 2010.

The success of CR sector is evident today. Many vibrant and motivated participants use the medium to raise their voice. From women, students and farmers to persons with disabilities, teachers and rickshaw pullers – all participants broadcast their stories based on their social, political, cultural or environmental inclinations. By providing vital knowledge and creating avenues for dialogue between the policy makers and people at the grass-roots, community radio has contributed to restricting poverty and widening the scope of sustainable development.

Community radio in Bangladesh has been used significantly in the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategy of the government. The ability of community radio to reach people affected by floods enables those in the ‘char’ or island communities to receive important information when the disaster occurs. In the past, community radio was used to share information about upcoming floods. Public service announcements and development news formats informed those in affected areas about where they could get assistance, and what precautions they could take to minimize risk to their lives and loss to their belongings. Currently, community radio programs are specifically designed to help listeners become pro-active instead of reactive to this commonly occurring disaster.

According to AHM Bazlur Rahman, one of the main foci of these radio stations is “empowering youth women through community media in Bangladesh.” As a result, the visibility of youth women participants in the community radio stations are very high. In a country where women are encouraged to be in their homes before it gets dark in order to protect them, where many social issues such as child marriage affect women, and where literacy among rural women stands low, women’s participation in community radio stations can be a breath of fresh air.

Molly Rani Das, a radio jockey and volunteer from Community Radio Bikrampur emphasizes that she has become more confident ever since she took the initiative to produce programmes for her community. Today, she is a representative of the fisherman community, (of which she is a member).  She is also a role model for other young women in her community.

Taijrani Rampersaud