Baseline Study : Community Radio - Readiness in Bangladesh : Challenge and Opportunities

Author's name: 
Dr. Khurshid Alam, Bangladesh Institute of Social Research(BISR)
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Community radio (CR) is a kind of local broadcasting arrangement which gets set up and operated by a fixed community for its well-being. A community radio is operated by a particular community or it is established by a group of communities. These communities may consist of women, children, tender aged, disabled, rural farmers, etc. Community radio maintains a clear difference with other types of mass media where in the case of common mass media only a selected group of people can take part while in the case of community radio every one can play his or her role.

In the case of Bangladesh Betar the scenario is a little bit different. The private radio channels are commercial in nature and they are mainly urban-affluent-society focused. The four private radios are Radio Today, ABC, Radio Furti and Radio Amar. Only Today has stations outside the capital city. Their languages, art of presentations and priorities are not for common people. The urban educated class tunes them and enjoys westernized style of broadcasting.

Unlike that Bangladesh Betar is the largest and oldest electronic media, and in nature it is public service broadcaster. It has been broadcasting 240 hours programme and news a day, using 27 transmitters. Among the transmitters 15 of them are medium wave which cover the whole country including some parts of India and Nepal. There are two short wave transmitters for external broadcasting in six different languages and the other 10 FM transmitters are used to reach more audiences on different parts of the country.

In Bangladesh, Bangladesh NGO’s Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC), some other organizations and a dedicated group of citizens started negotiating with the government in view of setting up community radio. In 2006 the Dhaka declaration was adopted after a three day long round table discussion which was held among the broadcasting lawyers, university teachers, development and communication experts, NGO representatives and donor agencies. Finally, Ministry of Information, GoB, has approved a policy for introduction of community radio in Bangladesh on 12 March, 2008.

Many studies in one way or other have contributed to surface a need and demand for setting up community radio in Bangladesh. BNNRC has done a good study on the subject summary of which also been placed in their website. Their findings show that the policy announcement was made on 12 March, 2008 in Bangladesh and advertisement for application was made on 18 March, 2008. At least 400 application forms were sold by Ministry of Information (MoI) and out of that 178 application forms were submitted to MoI. Three committees were formed which include National Regulatory Committee (NRC), Technical Sub-Committee and National Monitoring Committee. At least 50 Community Radio Stations are expected to be established soon.

As per available information there are very few empirical studies pursued on South Asia which include Baseline Survey of CRSC (May 2004), CRSC (May 2004), Zhong et al (2004), BNNRC (2009), National Broadcasting Authority (1989), Kabir and Bhattachargee (1994), Kobir et al (2006), and Kabir et al (2008). All those studies although covered various aspects four of those studies mainly have extensive empirical findings which include CRSC (May 2004), CRSC (May 2004), National Broadcasting Authority (1989) and Kabir et al (2006).This is the first time the baseline study of CR has been attempted in Bangladesh.

The researcher took 1000 samples from 10 districts covering 10 proposed community radio areas. From each area 100 samples were selected from 2 unions covering 4 WARDs. From each union 2 WARDs were selected randomly and from each WARD only 25 households were covered randomly.

Investigation revealed that among the members of the studied households 80.2 per cent can read and write. A good number of households (60.6%) have electricity and a few (2.2%) have solar connection. It means for operating TV majority of the households have some kind of power supply. Of course, it does not mean that there is an uninterrupted power supply in the rural areas.
Sanitation status of the households showed that most of the households were found using sanitary latrine except 8.6 per cent who were using open or hanging latrine. It may be mentioned here that Bangladesh had a target to achieve 100 per cent sanitation by 2010 but it is far to achieve that.

About amenities of life survey revealed that 33.1 per cent of households have radio, followed by TV-B&H (23.2%), color TV (20.3%), tape (13.4%), CD player (12.1%), etc. All those information showed that rural households have a good access to modern amenities of life. But still 22.2 per cent of the households do not have all the basic amenities of life which means data showed a close relation between poverty and non-possession of basic amenities of life.

The present survey revealed that only 1.3 per cent households have land phone and the rest do not have that. But at least 55.5 per cent of the households have mobile phone. And 32.4 per cent of mobile owning households have more than one set of mobile. Since two third have mobile phones and out of that only one-third (who are basically well off in terms of local standard) have more than one set. It means access to modern communication has increased a lot. Again survey revealed that 17.9 per cent have radio in their mobile, which means almost one-fifth households have access to radio through mobile itself.

Newspaper subscription showed that only 7.4 per cent households subscribed some newspapers and very few (2.0%) do subscribe the magazines. Likewise, 15.7 per cent of the households have dish or cable line and 14.9 per cent have radio with FM band. It means still around 15 per cent people have dish/cable connection and radio. It clearly shows that within the zone of influence of a CR at least 45,000 people or 9184 households would have ready access to community radio.

At least 63.4 per cent have never used radio and only 16.2 per cent used it every day. Those who do use radio they were the regular user of the radio. User of less than 1 or 2 times in a week is also high (6.1%).

Women face different types of problems in their everyday life. Disturbance from mosquito was mentioned as the highest problem (69.68%) by women, followed by lack of heath care (60.64%), shortage of electricity (53.01%), lack of medical facilities for child (51.20%), etc.

Source of getting information shows that nutrition for family members (37.65%), followed by child health (36.75%), self health (25.00%), health of family members (24.50%), heath care of adolescent girls / boys (23.19%), health care of pregnant women (22.49%), and health care of elderly people (22.79%) are from radio. It means a good number of people learn many things from the radio.

Highest number of respondent wants to listen to any important news on local area (95.48%), followed by education and literacy (94.68%), marketing (94.38%), illness or epidemic, etc. Most of the people believe that radio can solve any problem (94.08%), they want to participate in any radio program (78.11%), if trained then they want to participate in presentation or creative works (67.97%), and want to participate in planning of radio program (63.45%), etc. Indeed, most of the people are keen to participate in CR activities if they are oriented.

About traditional media, survey revealed that Jattra/ Drama/Puthi is the highest priority (77.11%), followed by Bahwaiya/ Vhatiali/ Jari/ Shari/ Baol/ Polligiti/ Spiritual, etc. songs at festival gathering (75.40%), cinema (67.87%), Gombira/ Kobi Ghan, Damer Ghan/ Pala Ghan (52.11%), and womenly songs/ Baromashi/ ten wives’ story, etc. women’s own program (44.98%).

Programs that they want to hear from CR include songs, drama, Jatta, etc. as recreational program, different community news, health related information, education and literacy program, family planning, agricultural program, fishery and livestock rearing, disaster management, women development, youth development, sanitation, environment and safe drinking water. All those programs have been supported by more than 90 per cent of the respondents. It means from the CR all those programs may be broadcasted.

AHM. Bazlur Rahman-S21BR
Chief Executive Officer
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication(BNNRC)
Member, Strategy Council
UN-Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN GAID)

House: 13/1, Road:2, Shaymoli, Dhaka-1207
Post Box: 5095, Dhaka 1205 Bangladesh

Phone: 88-02-9130750, 88-02-9138501
01711881647 Fax: 88-02-9138501-105


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