The UNESCO Chair on Community Media, University of Hyderabad recently organised two separate events in Hyderabad related to community media. One was about making community media relevant in the context of the Right to Information movement and the other, a two-day brainstorming session on campus community radio.
Prof. Vinod Pavarala, the UNESCO Chair, coordinated a workshop on “People’s Right to Information and Community Media,” at the National Convention on People’s Right to Information held in Hyderabad on February 17, 2013. The session, co-facilitated by Vipul Mudgal, Project Manager, Inclusive Media for Change, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Sukumar Muralidharan, Independent Journalist and Programme Manager, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), discussed the performance and modes of functioning of the mainstream media in contemporary times and the role community media could play in enhancing local governance and transparency.
The workshop emphasised the immediate need for integrating the right to information with the people’s right to communicate. Ramnath Bhat, Vice President, Community Radio Forum, India, argued for people’s right to access the airwaves, citing the Supreme Court ‘airwaves’ judgement of 1995 as well as the recent 2G spectrum judgement, which delineates ‘public good’ and ‘public interest’ as key criteria for spectrum allocation. Case studies were presented by community media practitioners, Chinna Narsamma and Algole Narsamma of the Deccan Development Society, and Sultan Ahmed of Drishti Media, Ahmedabad to drive home the point that participatory media practices could be used effectively by marginalized communities to address locally relevant issues, share information, and to take part in processes of governance. The workshop drew up a host of recommendations which were presented at a plenary session of the NCPRI convention.
In the second workshop, ‘Revisiting Campus Community Radio’, held on February 22 and 23, 2013, representatives of about 15 educational institutions across the country came together to deliberate on how campus-run community radio stations could effectively engage communities within and around the campus. Ashish Sen, President, AMARC Asia-Pacific, and Ramnath Bhat, Vice President, Community Radio Forum, Bangalore, and Dr. B.S. Panwar, Director, MS Panwar Institute of Communication and Management, Solan, Himachal Pradesh served as resource persons for the event. The workshop was coordinated by Mr. Vasuki Belavadi, Associate Professor, Department of Communication & Faculty Fellow, UNESCO Chair on Community Media.
The workshop discussed issues of ownership, participation, management, editorial independence, and sustainability of the programme content as well as human resources for a Campus Community Radio Station. There were also deliberations about the need for campus radio stations to invent their own systems of ownership and management and devise codes of practice that are not only consistent with the larger institutional mandate, but also in accordance with the basic philosophy of community radio. The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, who delivered the inaugural remarks at the workshop, underscored the importance of Bol Hyderabad, the University’s radio station, to the community life of the institution and said it could become an effective tool to link the University with the city at large. He suggested that campus community radio stations should meet annually to deliberate common issues that are unique to the sector and offered that University of Hyderabad and the UNESCO Chair could take the lead for the initial years.