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Self-regulation lends credibility to community radio: expert

11 February 2013

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

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The community radio movement will have to find out ways and means which will ensure its credibility as well as acceptability among the community it seeks to give a voice to.

With the space for free thinking shrinking each day, community radio will be a movement which will have to answer questions of justice and equity, said Ram Bhat, Founding Member of MARAA, a Bangalore based media and arts collective.

Connecting free speech with self-regulation, Bhat said, “One of the things implicit in self-regulation is strong connection with free speech. Self regulation is the act to comply with regulations.”

Drawing the importance of compliance with regulation, Bhat said that regulations are there but the big question is that who will ensure the compliance to the same and he added that community radio stations will have to face a high burden because of the free to air nature of the medium.

“Code of ethics is much more tailored to the individual community radio station and it has no direct relation to the laws or rules. It has to do with your commitment to the set standards and your broader vision,” Bhat explained.

Jayalakshmi Chittoor, a senior communications for development professional, said that ethical practice is something which is very dynamic and this process should be documented so that others can learn how these ethics have evolved.

NA Shah Ansari from Radio Namaskar, said that without proper regulation, a community radio station cannot run.  “Self-regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the field of community media,” he said.

Ansari added that self-regulation is neither censorship nor self-censorship. It is about establishing a minimum level of principles on ethics and accuracy. According to him, by promoting standards, self- regulation helps to maintain the community radio’s credibility with the public.

Laying stress on the need for transparency in community radio, Ansari said the way freedom goes with responsibility, freedom of expression goes with regulation. “Self-regulation is about community audience and the country, and we need to address this issue at the three levels including the district and the local levels,” he said.

Stalin K of Community Radio Forum (CRF), said that self-regulation framework adhered to, by the community radio stations, should be ethical. “We need to address the purpose beyond self-regulation.  Purpose will drive the basic code of the framework,” Stalin said.

Alymana Bathily, coordinator, World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC-Africa), said that self-regulation preserves broadcasting freedom. Self-regulation also helps to minimise state interference and promotes media quality.  “Self-regulation is an evidence of media accountability,” he said.

Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said that self regulation is a collective and individual responsibility. “We should not do something which might be harmful for the community in the long run,” she warned.

“We need to prevent harm to national integrity, communal harmony, children, women and other vulnerable groups,” she added.

Alka Malhotra, a specialist on communication for development with UNICEF, said that like we talk about the sustainability of the community radio, a time will come when the stations will feel the need for a code of ethics to carry on with the day to day responsibilities.

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