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Community Radio as Tool for Democratic Governance

Beyond the agitation for community radio in Nigeria, the recent workshop put together by the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) in collaboration with the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC) demonstrated in practical terms how the nation’s democracy can be given a boost through Community Radio, reports Raheem Akingbolu
 
 
When they started the struggle years back, they never envisaged that it could take them more than a decade to get what some African countries got on a platter of gold. But that’s what fate has bestowed on the agitators of Community Radio in Nigeria. In Akure where they met last week, it was not difficult for observers to note that it was a gathering of people of common goals with the soul determination to free their people.
 
Though the theme of the two-day workshop was “Building Community Radio for Democratic Governance in Nigeria,” it turned out to be another opportunity for them to review their journey over the years. The workshop was organised by the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) in collaboration with the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC). It also enjoyed the support of the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
 
To get a far-reaching feedback and contribution, participants were drawn from the community radio stakeholders from various parts of the South-west and North-central zones of the country, promoters of radio in various communities, non-governmental organisations and the media. It was meant to promote citizens participation in the democratic process through the instrumentality of community radio.
Opening discussions at the event, the Executive Director of the Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Lagos, Mr. Akin Akingbulu, said central to the objective of the workshop was to demonstrate and sensitise stakeholders on how Community Radio could serve as a veritable vehicle for good democratic governance and free and fair election.
 
As the closest medium to the grassroots, Akingbulu argued that Community Radio stand in a good position to ease communication between government and the people. He admitted that government had implemented various strategies to address the country’s enormous governance and development challenges but pointed out that consistent lacking in these strategies has remained the appropriate positioning of the people and their communication needs at the centre.
“Good governance and genuine development require the integration of all sections of society through appropriate communication and interaction processes.
 
The grassroots are particularly central in all these because they constitute the starting point of development. Unfortunately, they have remained marginalised and voiceless.”
Speaking on “Community Ownership of Community Radio,” the Executive Director, African Languages Technology Initiative, Dr. Tunji Adegbola, described Community Radio as one medium that had the strongest feedback mechanism, which, if leveraged upon, would promote transparency and trust between the governors and the governed.
 
Among other issues, Adegbola urged participants to always make sure that no section of their communities is marginalised while setting up or operating a Community Radio. It must be protected from possible hijack from politicians and moneybags and must represent the interest of all.
Another resource person who is also the Chief News Producer at the Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Qasim Akinreti, said as a symbol of greater participation in governance, the medium is capable of creating a bond between the leaders and the followers, without any suspicion.
For effective operation Akinreti, a respected online journalist, dwelled on the need for promoters of community radio to be keen about developing encompassing contents that would treat relevant issues to the community concerned. He also advocated the need to integrate new media channels while disseminating contents.
 
And in a communiqué issued after the workshop, participants reviewed the activities of the coalition in the last ten years, which included the design of a specific community radio development in 2006 and the pronouncement by the President of Nigeria in October 2010 that licensing of community radio should start urgently. This is, however, yet to be effected.
 
They also observed that, “All over the world, including the West African sub-region, community radio continues to expand and to make significant contributions to national development in diverse ways. Nigeria continues to be absent on the map of countries developing community radio and reaping the tremendous governance and development benefits.
 
“Nigerian grassroots communities and other stakeholders continue to re-state that community radio development is paramount on their and the country’s development agenda, even as they intensify advocacy for its emergence in the country.
“Strong voices for community radio development have also emerged from government agencies and development partners who implement activities in Nigerian grassroots”.
 
For the group to achieve its aim, they recommended that the regulatory body, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and other appropriate government agencies should speed up the regulatory process and start the issuance of community radio licenses before the end of year 2013, as instructed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in October 2010.
 
“The NBC should review the Broadcasting code to allow campus radio stations (already licensed and currently operating in educational institutions on various parts of the country) to provide voter education to their audiences, in the various stages of the electoral process.”
It also enjoined the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC) to expand its alliances and partnerships to include government institutions, such as the National Orientation Agency (NOA), to push through a successful advocacy for community radio broadcasting in Nigeria.
“The NRC should further undertake advocacy interactions with authorities within the Federal Government, particularly in the Executive and Legislative branches as well as the NBC to address any lingering issues so that implementation could be given to President Jonathan’s 2010 pronouncement.
 
“The NCRC should intensify its capacity-building efforts in support of grassroots communities across the country while putting in place appropriate mechanisms to ensure that community radio stations that would emerge in Nigeria truly belong to their communities.
“The Coalition should continue to provide capacity building support to campus radio stations for improved operational performance, while communities proposing to establish community radio stations should take advantages of available and cheap new technologies to build capacity and begin the process of content development as it will put them in a position to begin operations soon after they could have been licensed.
 
“Communities intending to establish community radio stations should assess their needs and develop concrete plans through professionally developed feasibility studies and lessons learnt from best practices across the world.”

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