The growing impact of ICT and the new media has broadened conceptual scope of the notion of community from ethnic origins or geographical location to virtual communities and groups of common interest. Therefore, as Carpentier et al. (2002, p. 455) points out, the very concept of community media has become somehow vague and elusive. Community media, by definition should be “promoting the participation of this community” (Carpentier et al. 2002, p.457). The relation between the community and the broadcaster should be bilateral – it is no longer merely a question of access, but of taking an active part in creation of an evolving public discourse.
The examples of European community media show (Rennie 2006, p.87) that their main values “sincerity, proximity and relevance” often meet and lose out to commercial and aesthetical aspects of public service broadcasting. On a contrary, in the community media of many countries of the Global South the question of commercial quality is secondary to locally produced broadcasts, which – thanks to the “amateurism” which in the European context might have been percieved as a drawback, play on the local audiences’ sense of familiarity. The awareness of how a broadcast material is produced seems to be another important advantage (Rennie 2006, p.91)
In many post-conflict societies like Nepal, the development of the community media has been largely orchiestrated by local and international NGOs. Search for Common Ground (SFCG), Developing Radio Partners, Panos or Equal Access are just a few examples of organisations with the mission of supporting development of local media though radio and tv shows, interviews and educational services focusing on issues like public health, human rights or women and youth empowerment. However biased this transnational involvement can be percived it is a fact that over the years, different succesful approaches have been adapted in order to facilitate interactions between different communities and to increase citizens’ participation. In the context of reconciliation introducing new narratives of peace, promoting forgiveness and understanding a cultural diversity constitute the foundation of the post-conflict recovery. That is why the community media, particularly radio, have been so popular.
Naya Nepal (New Nepal) was lunched in 2006 by Equal Access – NGO focusing on creating community-adapted communication solutions to address „critical challenges affecting people in the developing world” (Search for Common Ground, 2009). Naya Nepal is an example of such a long-term project, following socio-political changes in the country after decade-long armed conflict and subseqent abolition of the monarchy in 2007. It is produced in 7 local languages and aires by 30 local FM stations in order to reach isolated rural areas of the country where people do not speak Nepali. Besides the obvious groups of interests, the relative familiarity of the broadcasted subjects (ex.: basics of peace, rule of law, minority balance in politics; source: http://www.equalaccess.org/country-programs/nepal/nepal-projects/project-naya-nepal-nepal/) has made Naya Nepal the second most popular radio program in the country for over 4 years.
Different projects, like SFCG Hamro Team (Our team), focused on promoting peace dialogue among younger population and diaspors use more commercially appealing techniques to access the targeted audience. This locally adapted version of the NGO’s franchise The Team, this 13-episode series tells the story “about a football team and the challenges they face coming together despite their differences in a post-conflict environment”
The show’s message is teamwork despite cultural differences. However, as the authors admit – to not look too “preachy”, they decided to give it more commerical look – including visual attractivneess and a plot contating romances, comedy and drama. In my opinion, the result of this intentional commercialisation engagement on the emotional level, which not necessarily is the goal of the “community media”, but in the reconciliation context, may constitute an important channel to promote the narration of peace.
The differences between the two approaches is evident, just as are the target audiences. Both NGOs tried to focus on community values and adapt the content and form to the local communities. On the one hand we have informative and educational broadcast, aimed at engaging citizens’ participation. On the other – message of peace transmitted through “Western-like” teenage drama. The fact that both of them have reached their audiences can be understood as a sign of a growing positive influence of regional and international approches to participatory media foster peaceful co-existence of communities living in complex situations.
Carpentier, N., Rico, L. & Servaes, J. (2002) Chapter 15. Making community media work. In: Servaes, J. (ed.) Approaches to Development Communication, Paris: UNESCO.
Rennie, E. (2006) Community Media: a Global Introduction, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham.
Search for Common Ground (2009) Communciation for Peacebuilding: Practices, Trends and Challenges. Report prepared for the United States Institute for Peac