Bangladesh Pre-Consultation on the 2nd World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Asia Pacific (AMARC-AP)

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AHM Bazlur Rahman S21BR

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Bangladesh Pre-Consultation on the 2nd World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Asia Pacific (AMARC-AP) Regional Conference

‘With a view to addressing crucial social issues at community level, GoB approved the Community Radio Installation, Broadcast and Operation Policy 2008… This policy is one of the most comprehensively written community radio policy in Asia’. In his keynote paper S M Shameem Reza from the University of Dhaka has shown the community radio preparedness in Bangladesh with immense opportunities and inspirations. Bangladesh pre-consultation has chaired by Honorable Member of the Parliament Dr. Akram H. Chowdhury, member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Food and Disaster, and chairman of the Center for E-Parliament Study.

The pre-consultation was jointly organized by Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) and Center for E-Parliament Study, and supported by UNICEF-Bangladesh in LGED conference room, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka on 13 February 2010. The Secretary of the Ministry of Information Dr. Kamal Abdul Naser was the chief guest. The guests of honors were Syed Marghub Morshed Ex Chairman, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and former Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Aminur Rahman, Joint Secretary (Broadcasting), Ministry of Informaiton and Patricia Portela De Souza, Communication for Development Specialist, UNICEF Bangladesh. The keynote speaker was S M Shameem Reza, Associate Professor, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka. Among the discussants there were Muhammad Jahangir, Executive Director, Center for Development Communication (CDC), Faruq Faisel, Canadian Program Team Leader, Aga Khan Foundation – ECD Support Program, Kamrul Hassan Manju, Executive Director, Mass Line Media Center (MMC), Jamil Ahmed, Head of Program, JATRI/IGS and Sabrina Sharmin, Communication Manager, RDRS.

In the opening speech, AHM Bazlur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer of BNNRC, has informed about the latest updates of community radio installation in Bangladesh. He thanked the guests and participants for their active concern on the issue. In keynote paper S M Shameem Reza has briefly presented the current situation of community radio in Bangladesh. Present government has included community radio as a tool for development besides national radio network. In parliament Honorable Minister, Ministry of Information expressed commitment to promote community radio. As mentioned earlier in 2008 a comprehensive policy on CR adopted and some other acts/policies have taken subsequently related to CR. Right to Information Act 2009 and National ICT Policy 2009 are two of them.

In the keynote presentation, the speaker stated the positive attempts made by the government for establishing CR in the country. The NGOs, other civil society organizations, iconic personalities and development partners are the key factors in the CR process in Bangladesh. It also rightly cited in the paper. As progress speaker showed different indicators. Formation of three committees as stated in the policy, inclusion of CR in the PRS-II, establishment of CR Academy, pro-active role of Center of E-Parliament Study, considering CR as strategic tool for achieving goals in the Coastal Development Strategy and Priority Investment Programme, etc are encouraging for CR initiators.

Major challenges for CR establishment pointed out in the paper could be overcome by good intension and coordination. The Ministry of Information has taken necessary steps to finalize the process soon. The CR Academy has been carrying out initiatives for building capacity of the initiators. A baseline survey has conducted by BNNRC to get clear picture of demand side in the communities. A series of seminar, workshop and discussion have been going on to ensure sound cooperation. The Keynote speaker has also referred to the preparedness of key actors and pointed out the scope for actions. There are six areas to address as follows; 1) capacity building, 2) technical cooperation, 3) research and development, 4) policy and enabling environment, 5) cross-cutting, and 6) campaign and advocacy.

Promoting local culture, indigenous knowledge, sharing experience, supporting national, local and community-based development, encouraging the participation of women and marginalized and promote environmental friendly people oriented media are few areas have emphasized in the paper as opportunities toward positive changes.

Patricia Portela De Souza has delivered a very short presentation afterward. She has showed the issue in global context. Best practices in different developing countries has illustrated in the presentation. UNICEF-Bangladesh has requested the Ministry of Information for considering the marginalize communities to approve licenses for establishing CR in the pilot phase. She offered assistance in research, strategic planning to implement the CR policy and support to establish CR stations in three low performance districts in the country.

After the lively presentations the floor opened up for the discussants. Muhammad Jahangir requested concern government ministry to accelerate the process to materialize the CR policy as soon as possible. He was pinpointing capacity building, quick licensing, hiring professionals and few other important issues. In licensing process Ministry of Information is the prime agency but CR could be funded by each and every government agencies in their development activities. Donor or NGOs dependency of CR was another concern in his discussion. A time slot base deal could be considered with donor agencies was his suggestion regarding CR broadcasting. Marketing strategy and regulatory framework are two essential thoughts he emphasized. Faruk Faisal highlighted on technological aspect as well as decentralization of media planning. He related the CR issue with present government’s commitment to build a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ and vision 2021. He argued for an independent media commission for monitor and help media.

Kamrul Hassan Manju questioned the audience on the preparedness of the communities to run CR. He said about the demand side’s weakness and asked for further campaign to popularize it to the communities for creating ownership. He suggested for acquiring knowledge regarding content development from neighboring countries. Jamil Ahmed recommended for arrange this kind of discussion in the community level. His organization (JATRI) is interested to cooperate for conducting research, advocacy and training. He requested the Center for E-Parliament Study for placing CR issues in the parliament for effective implementation. Sabrina Sharmin has argued on the communities’ preparedness. Her organization in the northern part of the country has already taken essential preparation for operating CR station.

Follows by the discussion, keynote speaker has put the concluding remark where he stated about the technological choices. He asked for considering diverse local experiences to establish CR.

Guest of Honor Aminur Rahman expressed his keen interest on CR in Bangladesh. He has given positive signals on behalf of the government to finalize CR operation soon. He was suggesting for reducing NGOs dependency gradually. Syed Marghub Morshed has put argument for establishing a regulatory body for media comprising GoB, NGOs, mainstream media personalities, academicians and other stakeholders as well.

The chief guest Dr. Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, Secretary, Ministry of Information, has placed his concern about the capacity building, content development and monitoring of CR. He was asking to develop indicators for measuring the performance of CR broadcasting. Few limitations of CR policy also pointed out in his speech. He emphasized on women and children development, climate change other development issues to address by the CR. He appreciated community participation in different development activities and expressed his confidence about the communities’ preparedness for launching CR. He has informed the audience the seriousness of the government to allow CR for broadcasting. Dr. Akram H. Chowdhury. M.P. concluded the session by his final words. He conveyed gratitude and thanks to the guests and participants to join the session.

In second session there were two group discussions arranged by the organizers for considering the following topics; group-1: CR Management and Monitoring, and group-2: CR Technology and Community Participation. Two brief presentations have made by the group member later. Dr. Akram H. Chowdhury has also chaired the session and put remarks on the presentation. Media expert Faroha Suhrawardy has facilitated the group work.

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