The project will provide a channel to inform, a platform to connect and participate and a tool to promote development and change.
With the activities envisaged the project aims to achieve the following specific results:
Community media are best suited to serve as the voice and ears of the most vulnerable and excluded groups of society. The action will result in production of quality radio programs that will discuss a range of topics relevant not only to specific communities, but also to larger audiences on a local or national level. The focus and topics of the programs for poverty reduction and development have been outlined recently by an intensive needs assessment survey, conducted by BNNRC with support of Free Press Unlimited. The survey defined area-specific and issue-based community needs that need specific attention by the community media. For example, disaster preparedness and early warning information messages are one of the primary needs for the community radio stations in the coastal area and these stations will focus on program production addressing these problems. Access to resources and water shortages will be the prime focus of the programming by the stations in the northern part of Bangladesh.
The overarching issues that will be addressed in the program production of all the stations in the course of 2 years will be: women health and women employment, small enterprise opportunities, education of girls in rural areas, access to local resources, fairer institutions, engagement and participation of communities,women and child trafficking, land rights and creating enabling environment.
Community media is a relatively new phenomenon in Bangladesh. The 14 stations that are currently on air are operating primarily on pure commitment and enthusiasm of volunteers and community initiators. Everything related to community radio operation (including policy, management, production, broadcasting, community ownership etc) is completely new. That means that capacity building efforts in journalistic skills, production and management skills are in high demand. The proposed action aims to build the capacities through trainings in journalistic skills, in management and in daily operations.
The long-term financial sustainability is one of the major bottlenecks in the existence and operation of any media outlet, and specifically for community media.
The proposed action aims to start developing a comprehensive strategy for financial sustainability of community radio stations in Bangladesh already at this the very initial stage of their development. The strategy will be developed through multi-stakeholder meetings and discussions, involving the radio stations, community leaders and representatives, local and national government representatives, as well as representatives of local businesses. Additionally, experience and ideas will be shared with strategies for financial sustainability of community radios in neighboring countries (India and Nepal) and best practices will be incorporated. The discussions will be coordinated by BNNRC and will result in drafting a comprehensive strategy for financial sustainability of community radio in Bangladesh.
BNNRC is a pioneer of the community media movement in the country. It is also the only nationwide network organization that supports the stations in all the stages of their development and that maintains constant dialogue with the government to use these media for addressing critical social issues. In that sense building further the capacity of BNNRC in terms of organization, operations and management means directly and indirectly further strengthening of the existing and the new to be established community radio stations. As the initiator of first Community Radio Academy in the country at BNNRC aiming capacity development (through training and research support) for the neo-professionals in Community Media sector, the academy will need further guidance and inputs for having a meaningful institutional set up. The community radio Help Desk that was recently started at BNNRC needs to be strengthened with skilled human resource, in order to provide relevant and timely assistance and response to the growing needs of the community radio stations. Furthermore, the staff of BNNRC needs further skill development and support in defining its future policy also regarding its role for the development of future community TV stations.
BNNRC also needs continuous support for its lobby and advocacy activities, as well as in network building and facilitation dialogue between communities and local and central governments.
Bangladesh has adopted a legal framework on access to information (Right to Information Act) already in 2010. However, this legislation still remains widely unknown and unused by the citizens, the media and the government officials. In the framework of this project BNNRC will organize a number of nationwide campaigns with different stakeholders to increase the knowledge on the legislation and promote the importance of its active use to hold governments accountable. The community radio stations will also actively participate in this process, as they are best positioned to inform the communities and the general audience on how to use access to information to bring important issues to the attention of the decision making powers.
The proposed action envisages production and broadcast of program addressing issues of vital importance to local communities in the remote and rural regions of Bangladesh, which are usually deprived of the reach and interest of mainstream media. The programs will be produced not only by staff of the community radio stations, but also by thousands of volunteers (teachers, students, community leaders, etc) to make sure that the important problems are given platform for discussion. In that way, through production of quality radio programs and distribution, the project will contribute to increased citizen and community participation in efforts to solve burning social issues, to reduce poverty and to promote change and development.
The current mainstream media in Bangladesh often do not challenge the work of local governments. The program production and distribution by community radio stations, and the awareness raising campaigns envisaged by the action will keep national and local government actors accountable as to provide increased transparency in the efforts and discussions about the poverty reduction, democratic governance and ways to promote development (through education, employment opportunities and increased access to information).
Free Press Unlimited and the Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication aim to strengthen the capacities of community radio stations in Bangladesh as the voices of the poor and marginalized.
As community radio stations are relatively young, they do not have skilled journalistic, production or management staff. Through intensive journalistic skills trainings, production and management trainings, and on-the-job coaching, the action aims to improve the journalistic standards and improve the capacities of at least 150 staff and volunteers of community radio stations. Additionally, 536 young boys and girls that are currently offering their ideas, efforts and creativity to community media, will also have the opportunity to increase their knowledge and learn journalistic skills.
The learning-by-doing approach will be used to learn new skills and improve existing skills in fact finding and fact checking, writing text and presentation. Station managers will be involved in trainings and coaching on technical and operational aspects, and the program managers will be involved in trainings in content, format, focus, and relevance to communities components of program production.
The action is expected to dramatically increase the skills and knowledge of staff and volunteers of community radio stations, thus resulting in production and dissemination of quality information of vital importance for audiences otherwise deprived of voice and participation. The audience of the 20 community radio stations (each one covers a radius of more than 17 km from its transmitter source) covers more than 40 million people. Given the diversity in culture and local languages (dialect), the radio stations and their audiences have common experience of poverty, unemployment and above all lack of access (right) to information. Community radio has unlocked the potential of the rural disadvantaged community with the feeling that the communities finally have their own media and that these media can put their problems on the national agenda.
The final beneficiaries of the proposed action include local authorities, representatives of national government, policy makers, members of the civil society and media professionals at large. The advocacy efforts and awareness raising campaign to promote active use of right to information legislation, as envisaged by the project, will have a long term impact for the understanding and practicing this legislation as way to increase transparency and fight corruption. Only joint and frequent use by media, by the government, and by the civil society of the right to information legislation can ensure its effectiveness.
The local partner BNNRC will benefit in many ways from the proposed action. Firstly, the organizational and management capacity will be strengthened further through training and coaching. Technical assistance will be provided for the community radio Help Desk, including equipment, know how, and support for network building. Secondly, the position of BNNRC as an important national player in the community media development in Bangladesh will be stabilized further. Additionally, BNNRC will start playing a more active role in promoting better and wider understanding of the Right to Information Act and the vital importance of its regular use.
BNNRC will also improve its capacities to lobby and advocacy, and to help new community radio initiators prepare applications, receive licenses and start operations.
a) The action will result in the production and broadcast of at least 1200 radio programs on issues of development and poverty reduction. The topics will include disaster prevention and management, impact of climate change, women rights (including education, women health, child care and employment), local governance, land rights, food production and security, farming and fishing, opportunities for starting small businesses etc
b) A comprehensive strategy for sustainability of community media in Bangladesh will be published, outlining financing and governance models also compared to success stories in neighboring countries (India and Nepal)
c) A showcasing website for uploading the produced programs and for information relevant to the development of the community radio stations will be built. It will allow for easy program exchange and will keep the community radio stations updated on policies and regulations
d) A handbook for government officials, media and citizens on the basics of the Right to Information Act and a handbook on Community Media Operations
e) An external evaluation report will be produced reflecting on the project’s achievements and lessons learned, available to organizations, institutions and different parties working in similar fields.
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