Bangladesh is poised to become a model for systematic and sustainable Community Radio

Author's name: 
AHM Bazlur Rahman S21BR

Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) has organized a conference on ‘Community Radio in Bangladesh: Lesson from International Practice, Moving from Policy to Action in Bangladesh’, on 13th April 2010, in BRAC Inn, Dhaka, Bangladesh, supported by USAID/PROGATI. International Expert on community radio from U.S.A. Ms Terry Thielen was presented her keynote paper in the conference.

She had traveled and interviewed number of community radio initiator, academic, researcher, advocacy leader, civil society leader, government official, journalist, media specialist and communication expert in Bangladesh, before preparing her paper. In her presentation, she applauded the systematic and sustainable course of actions for establishing community radio in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Maj Gen Zia Ahmed, psc (Retd.) was presented as the chief guest and Dr. Akram Hossain Chowdhury Member of Parliament (MP) moderated the conference. Information Commissioner of Information Commission, Bangladesh Professor Dr. Sadeka Halim, Dr. Mohammad Zainul Abedin, Country Representative, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Bangladesh, Syed Marghub Morshed, Former chairman, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) were the Guest of Honor.

A number of community radio advocates were there as guests . Among the participants there were regulator, government official, civil society leader, academia, community radio initiator, journalist, researcher, representative from corporate sector, development partner representative, UN official, media think-tank, ICT4D expert, media specialist, broadcast managers, etc.

Ms Terry Thielen has worked with community radio since 2002, mostly as part of USAID funded projects engaging community radio for democracy building in Haiti, Jamaica, Rwanda and Sudan. She was contracted by PROGATI/ USAID to conduct an assessment of the community radio environment to gain an understanding of the history of community radio in Bangladesh, the role of key players in the movement, the existing legal framework, and the ‘readiness’ of community radio initiators themselves.

In her study, she found ‘the Bangladesh community radio movement to be remarkably well prepared, organized and ready to begin the process of establishing community radio stations across the country. The long term advocacy and orientation efforts of key grassroots civil society players such as Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication(BNNRC) and others, along with support from UNESCO, Cordaid, Free Voice, UNICEF, CIDA, Article19 and various donors have laid a solid foundation on which to build a vibrant, effective and sustainable community radio sector.’ In her presentation, she offered few recommendations to different player in community radio initiative.

For Community Radio Advocates, her suggestions are mainly focused on capacity building activities. She emphasized on Community Radio Academy for designing curriculum and approach to help initiators for efficient operation of community radio stations.

Her recommendation for community radio initiators was on the involvement of community people in the station. She advised to hire employees from the community to operate community radio stations.

For government, she appealed for short-term, mid-term and long-term activities. In short-term, the license should be issued immediately. In mid-term, she advocated modifying the policy before the next round of applications. In this modification, a timeline should include in the policy for issuing the license in time. For long-term she suggested to develop a review process for applicants denied licenses so they understand why their applications were rejected. She also recommended including an appeals process in the community radio policy.

Mr. S M Shameem Reza, Associate Professor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Dhaka and Mr. Shahab Enam Khan, Assistant Professor, Jahangirnagar University was the designated discussants on the keynote paper. Later the participants were commented on the presentation.

Guest of Honor Professor Dr. Sadeka Halim highlighted the role of community radio as an instrument for promoting pluralism and good governance and Right to Information. She suggested the initiators to put women, farmers and small entrepreneurs in the community radio advisory committee. On monitoring issue, she appealed for civil society involvement.

In line with ‘Digital Bangladesh’ and ‘Vision 2021’, the present government has taken few progressive attempts. Community radio should be considered as one of the component in this regard. Chief Guest Maj Gen Zia Ahmed, psc (Retd.) has clarified the role of BTRC concerning community radio initiatives. He assured the audience that BTRC had already reserved the frequencies for the short listed community radio applicants.

At the end of the conference, moderator Dr. Akram Hossain Chowdhury MP thanked the guests and participants for their lively involvement in the event.

After the conference, a technical session on ‘Transparency, Accountability and Anti-Corruption Issues in Community Radio’ has held in the same venue, moderated by Dr. Akram Hossain Chowdhury MP.

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