Saturday, 19 June 2010

[creative-radio] Community Radio Coming Out Of the Shadows in Asia

RT @mediafound: Community Radio Coming Out Of the Shadows in Asia


Community Radio Coming Out Of the Shadows in Asia
Thursday, 17 June 2010 08:50
Written by Kalinga Seneviratne*

SINGAPORE (IDN) - In the 1990s, pressured by the globalization push from
the West, there was a great wave of media liberalization across Asia. Many
governments reluctantly gave up control of the airwaves, first allowing
private FM radio and later private television channels as well.

A decade or more after this wave of media liberation swept Asia, many
communication experts in the region are now arguing whether private
commercialized media really allows freedom of expression and promotes
cultural diversity.

It has mainly resulted in private radio licenses going to entrepreneurs who
want to use the radio to promote their other business interests or political
ambitions, and sometimes both. Thus a new wave of media liberalization is
now sweeping Asia -- that is the spread of community radio.

This was acknowledged by the recent Asia Media Summit in Beijing when for
the first time a plenary session on community radio was introduced under the
title "Promoting'On-Air Diversity': A Case for Community Broadcasting".

While community radio expanded rapidly in Latin America and Africa in the
1990s, in Asia it was slow to take off. Asia's first foray into community
radio Mahaveli Community Radio (MCR) in Sri Lanka has faced government
indifference since its launch in the late 1980s. But Philippines Tambuli
community radio, which was inspired by the MCR experiment, has expanded in
the past decade and a half to over 30 stations. Nepal -- whose inspiration
was Tambuli -- has seen a dramatic increase in community based radio in the
past decade which has tempted some to call community radio the mainstream
radio in the Himalayan republic.

In Thailand, where there is an estimated 6000 community radio stations that
have sprung up since the 1997 constitution paved the way for peoples' radio,
the community radio is credited for having mobilized the peasants and
farmers' 'red shirt' movement to take on the traditional ruling elites in
Bangkok that includes the monarchy and the military.



A shinning example of the spread of community radio in Asia is Nepal, where
there is an estimated 60 such stations across the country. Most of them were
instrumental in mobilizing people to overthrow the monarchy and create a
republic in 2006. But, its very success is threatening to undermine the



Indonesia, which has also seen a proliferation of so-called community radio
stations in the country of 205 million people, is also facing a similar
situation because there is no category for community radio licensing.



Some stations have also fallen prey to a foreign agenda, where western
funding agencies have supported projects to promote freedom of speech in
countries, which have not had a liberal open democratic system. This has
created friction with governments and hindered the localization of the
community radio, especially in economic sustainability.

Western funding agencies must also realize that in the age of globalisation
community radio could play a leading role in helping people to protect,
nurture and develop their local cultural expressions -- such as music and
poetry -- in the face of the international global media onslaught such as
from MTV.

Such a role for community radio is also an issue of freedom of expression.
For many rural, remote or marginalized communities community radio could
provide a great service in providing education and overcoming the literacy
barriers. Some of these communities don't always belong to ethnic


* Dr Kalinga Seneviratne is a Sri Lankan born journalist, radio broadcaster,
television documentary maker and an international communications analyst. He
currently works as the Head of Research at the Asian Media Information and
Communication Centre (AMIC) in Singapore.

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