People's SAARC Regional Convergence, a south Asian mega event of civil society was held in Kathmandu ahead of 18th SAARC summit. The three day event that bears the slogan of 'People's movement uniting South Asia for deepening democracy, social justice and peace', will start from 22 November and last on 24 November endorsing a declaration as South Asian civil society's common voice. Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB) Nepal, has organized a workshop on "Community Broadcasting for Positive Societal Transformation in South ASia". People from different of walk of life have joined in the workshop and shared their experiences. The workshop also explored the way forward for community broadcasting service to accelerate the positive societal transformation across the region.
Suman Basnet, regional coordinator of AMARC moderated the session by explaining the contextual situation of community radios in Nepal. By reciting quotation of Kofi Annan as saying "While technology shapes the future, it is people who shape technology, and decide to what uses it can and should be put", Basnet emphasized on use of media on positive societal change by the people and for the people. He mentioned about difficulties while obtaining license by community radios in compared to easier for private sector.
Basnet said community radios in Nepal are serving people as mass media; however, the inaccessibility is still a big question. He said although community radios broadcasting is seventeen years old, the expected role of community radios in positive societal change is still yet to achieve. By giving the reference of participation of minority communities in radio broadcasting, he also talked about systematic inaccessibility.
Dev Narayan Yadav as a panelist speaker discussed about the activities of Radio Madi in six thematic areas. He shared about sustainability approach of Radio Madi and strategy of ownership handover to community. The broadcasting of Radio Madi is focused on specific themes with the aim of positive societal change. He said radio Madi was established by taking loans from sixty-three individual people. This radio station has done progress in paying back and director of this radio, Dev Narayan Yadav is confident on transforming radio ownership to community by paying back its debt. The theme based broadcasting and sustainability approach could be the innovative message for broadcasters in south Asia.
RC Lamichhane, executive director of Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB) Nepal gave presentation on how his organization is carrying out positive societal role through its member community radio stations. He mentioned about endorsement of positive societal policy in general assembly of community radio station in Nepal. Lamichhane said the community radio stations has been achieving positive impacts in every corner of the society and also stressed on the further role through powerful communication which can bring effective results in behavior change. He mentioned that there is still inaccessibility to information for some people and said community radio stations are the only medium which can effectively reach out to them.
Soham Subedi, coordinator of Community Information Network (CIN) said that community radio stations are the single source of information for around sixty percent people in Nepal. He said community radio stations are not exceptional in terms of having drawbacks and said they are also a part of society which replicates it's both sides. He talked about lack of innovative approaches in resource mobilization and said commercial model of marketing can not address the sustainability issue of community radios.
In discussion session, participant raised their concern regarding the meaningful involvement community in the operation of community radio stations and sustainability of community radio stations in growing competition due to technical innovation. Participant asked about the strategy of ACORAB in positive societal change while new media tools are dominating the information sharing platforms. Panelist Lamichhane answered the question by saying that the prime target of ACORAB's community radios is to address the information need of people who has no access to other alternative mediums. Besides this, ACORAB is giving focus on human resource and institutional capacity development of community radios for quality and effective communication. He said access to internet is in the range of 10-15% and centered in city areas whereas rural people are solely reliant on local community radio stations and ACORAB through local community radio stations has focused on fulfilling the gap of inaccessibility.
With regard to sustainability issues, moderator of the session Suman Basnet who is a regional coordinator of World Association of Community Radio Broadcaster (AMARC) said community radio stations in India have exploring sustainability measures to deal with growing competition due to technical innovation. Nepalese community radio stations should also start to explore their own way of sustainability. While talking about ownership, Basnet said community radio stations should identify about who controls the community radio stations and who makes the content are also important for ensuring effectiveness of broadcasting.
In addition, Soham Subedi of ACORAB/CIN shared that CIN is also exploring the use of new media tools to reach out all kinds of listeners. He said CIN has already been in online through internet and has initiated for further technical transformative role. He said government of Nepal has also gearing up its preparation to digitalize the radio broadcasting.
Station managers of Radio Burtibang and Radio Sindhu shared their experiences of how community radio can create impacts in the society. Station manager of Radio Burtibang said giving space to community based organization and issues in broadcasting can make radio sustainable. He shared that his station is operating under cooperative model and being able to fulfill the financial expenses through advertisement revenue collection.
At the last of program, Govind Prasad Devkota, general secretary of ACORAB said radio stations have done exemplary works in creating positive societal impacts. He also agreed on the requirement of improvement in some areas of community radio broadcasting and expressed his organization's commitment to involve in the improvement of drawbacks and lacking sides in/of community radio station.