In commemoration of the World Radio Day 2015 (February 13), UNESCO New Delhi partnered with the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) to organize a national event on the theme ‘Community Radio and Social Inclusion’.
Held at the UN Complex in New Delhi, the event consisted of an inaugural session and an expert panel discussion on the title theme. The event was attended by over 100 representatives of the media sector, Government of India, civil society organizations, development agencies, and academia.
The event’s inaugural session included the launch of the South Asia Network on Community Media (SANCOM) – a specialized knowledge-sharing network and forum spanning the SAARC region (an initiative supported by UNESCO and led by the UNESCO Chair on Community Media). The inaugural also saw the release of a manual produced by UNESCO in cooperation with Ideosync Media Combine titled Internal Migration: A Manual for Community Radio Stations, as well as of the CEMCA study Innovation in the Community Radio Sector (supported by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting). The three launches were followed by a keynote address by Mr Jawahar Sircar, the CEO of Prasar Bharati, India’s public service broadcaster.
As part of his opening address Mr Shigeru Aoyagi, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka observed that UNESCO promotes community radio (CR) as part of its efforts to strengthen media pluralism, the diversity of content, and the representation of different groups and interests in society.
He noted that UNESCO’s CR initiatives have focused on policy development, capacity building of community members, research, advocacy, and technological innovation. Dr Ramesh Sharma, the Director of CEMCA emphasized the need to map and promote innovation in the CR sector, and drew attention to CEMCA’s recent interventions in the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
UNESCO and Yes Bank are currently working towards launching a project that will support the inclusion of internal migrants in the economic, social and cultural life of the country. Speaking on the occasion of World Radio Day, Ms Preeti Sinha, Senior President and Global Convenor at Yes Bank outlined certain areas of mutual interest for Yes Bank and UNESCO, and noted that the UNESCO-Yes Bank partnership would include the capacity building of community members and CR stations to help integrate internal migrants within society.
The second part of the programme comprised an expert panel discussion on the theme ‘Community Radio and Social Inclusion’. The panel was moderated by Prof. Vinod Pavarala, Chair holder of the UNESCO Chair on Community Media at the University of Hyderabad. The discussion focused on ways in which CR stations – through their processes of community mobilization, participatory programme development, and stakeholder engagement – helped build a more cohesive and inclusive society. However, several panellists agreed that the pace of establishment of CR stations in India would need to be accelerated. Likewise, efforts to operationalize the national CR policy would need to be intensified, for CR to effectively strengthen the social fabric of communities in different parts of the country.
Finally, as Mr N. Ramakrishnan, the Executive Director of Ideosync pointed out, CR ought to be re-positioned within movements for free speech and the right to information, rather than being placed exclusively within a development agenda. This would allow a richer profusion of marginalized voices to be heard, understood and acted upon. This would foster a more inclusive society and re- validating the raison d’être of CR stations.
National Programme Officer
Communication and Information Sector
UNESCO New Delhi