UNESCO review of community radio

First ever review of the community radio world in Nepal. It only covers the Valley, but is still interesting. Read the full Community MHZ

Community MHZ

Due to the low literacy rate and lack of basic infrastructure, mainstream media reach only few people in the hilly and mountainous areas of Nepal. In these parts of the country, community radios play a particularly important role in disseminating information. They are the most effective media to enable people to participate in policy and decision-making processes, and to protect and promote the diversity of their cultural expressions. And they are in the frontline defending freedom of expression and right to information.

Through community radios, community members can voice their concerns and receive information that concerns them directly. Community radio stations can expose weak governance and corruption and encourage open dialogue and transparency of administration at local level. Many community radio stations have pinpointed failures in decision making, and questioned the use of public funds.

However, community radios function not only as watchdogs – they also provide entertainment during the long days of work and contribute to create solidarity among community members, Since the establishment of Radio Sagarmatha in 1997, the first community radio in South Asia, the number of community radio stations in Nepal’s has started to grow rapidly.

Today they are almost 200, showcasing an exceptional spirit of pioneerism and ambition in creating avenues for free flow of information.

With this thriving and vibrant radio landscape, Nepal’s community radio actors have lead the way for other South Asian countries.

However, the challenges for Nepal’s community radios has been the lack of legal framework and the lack of a clear definition of what community radios actually are, and how they differ from the privately or government owned radio stations. The Community Radio Performance Assessment System offers one of the first tools to address these and other challenges in a systematic way. They help define community radios and establish how community oriented they actually are. The indicators are a clear and practical tool for assessing community radios – both for the community radios themselves, as well as the external stakeholders promoting community radios.

Ever since the establishment of Radio Sagarmatha, community radios have been one of the priority areas for the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu. UNESCO has regularly supported projects that have catalyzed the growth of the sector by promoting replicable models and building the capacity of key organizational players. Therefore it is only natural that we now support the pilot project of the first application of the Community Radio Performance Assessment System. I am sure that this methodology will further strengthen Nepal’s community radios, and offer them a tool to grow, not only in numbers but also in terms of the quality of their work.

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