Knowledge and information is increasingly becoming, and will continue to be, instrumental in improving the lives and livelihood of people. In Bangladesh, the poorest and marginalized are deprived from different value-added knowledge and information to improve their lives. The sources of knowledge and information are also extremely limited for the poor. The existing three primary broadcast media - government owned public service media (Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television), private media (private satellite television channels and commercial FM radio stations) and International media (BBC World Service, VOA, DW, NHK, etc.) do not effectively cater the needs and expectations of these marginalized community. Most of the existing media-based knowledge sources are centralized in spirit and to a large extent elitist in nature. The existing media because of their different agenda (profitability and propaganda) hardly invest airtime to meet the needs and demands of this neglected community. Community radio - a â€śradio of the people, for the people and by the peopleâ€ť - is believed to cater the long demanded needs of the community and engage them in their development pursuit in an interactive, participatory and decentralized manner.
Media is considered as a very sophisticated tool for practicing freedom, liberty and democracy. For the first time the community people of Bangladesh are going to have their own media. The local initiators are not experienced in community media operation and management. As a result, strong capacity building support is needed for effective start of this media so that it can meet the overall goal of development for the poor and marginalized. Recently only 14 community radio initiators got approval from the Government to start their operation in Bangladesh. These 14 initiators could become the role model for others new community radio initiators in future. Therefore, to develop these 14 CR operations as the centre of excellence in community radio field, the necessary capacity strengthening activities are needed in a number of areas such as assessing community needs, engaging the community with the local broadcasting activities, station management, news collection, etc.
During a discussion with the 14 approved community-radio initiators, a number of issues came out which if addressed appropriately it could become helpful for smooth kick-off of the community radio operations in Bangladesh.
â€˘ Need for hands-on experiences to operate community radio
â€˘ Methods for developing true community ownership of the radio
â€˘ Strategies for community participation and integration with the radio,
â€˘ Resource generation and mobilization for sustainable operation and sustainability of radio operation
â€˘ Efficient station management to achieve desired objective of community radio
â€˘ short-mid-long term planning to steer the community radio initiative towards the goal
â€˘ Strategies for social inclusiveness (women, children, ethnic minority, youth, etc.)
â€˘ Skills and expertise for community radio technological installation and trouble-shooting
â€˘ Using community radio for advocacy for the grass root people
â€˘ Setting up effective and efficient monitoring and feedback mechanism
â€˘ Developing effective and timely community news collection and dissemination methods
â€˘ Strategies for building supporters and volunteers for community radio
â€˘ Creating awareness and linkage with local authorities and service providers
In line with these understandings, BNNRC and UNICEF-Bangladesh agreed to design a project for making the community radio initiatives in Bangladesh a strong and quality communication sector for true community empowerment and development.