Heather Gilberds

Heather Gilberds (Jagaran Media Center – JMC): Heather has always been a strong advocate for independent media development and activism. Her interest in grassroots media and development stemmed from travel in South-East Asia and extensive involvement in community radio. On return to Canada Heather worked in radio at the University of Alberta’s campus station. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master’s degree in communications at Carleton University.

Community Radio as a Catalyst for Change

30 Jul

Radio Jagaran is currently conducting a 4-day workshop about principles of radio production. The first day was scheduled to be an introduction to the workshop, a session conducted by me on advocacy journalism as well as a belated welcome ceremony for me. The welcome ceremony was in the style of typical Nepali hospitality – genuine and giving. All staff members introduced themselves and all of the senior staff gave speeches. Many of the staff members welcomed me personally by bringing bright red rhododendron flowers and leaving them at my feet.

The first session I conducted was on advocacy journalism. As has been the case with all sessions that I have conducted so far in Nepal, I learned a great deal from the participants. In discussing principles of good advocacy journalism, comments and questions regarding the state of journalism in Nepal and issues of social impact monitoring and evaluation were raised. How can the effect of radio campaigns that have social justice missions be evaluated? If the radio broadcasts a particular campaign and no discernible change occurs in the community, does that mean that the program failed to achieve its mission? The general notion among the staff at Radio Jagaran appears to be that failures to achieve demonstrable effects are the result of poor quality journalism and radio production. This may be true to some extent; I know that I certainly have some suggestions with regard to journalistic techniques and program production, especially in terms of variability of formats. However, i think part of the problem in measuring impact has to do with the way that success is conceived of. If a particular change is not brought about in a community within a relatively short time-span, does this indicate failure? At the workshop, I expressed that community radio (CR) is notoriously difficult to monitor in terms of its social impact. According to mandates of CR that have a social justice mission, the goal is usually empowerment…but how can you determine that someone has become empowered?

I expressed that CR itself does not cause change…people cause change. CR serves as a catalyst, a force to mobilize people in a community to enact change. This conversation brought the film “Sometimes in April” to mind, which is a film about the role hate radio played in the Rwandan genocide. As part of post-conflict truth and reconciliation in Rwanda, the journalists involved in propagating hate radio were tried for crimes against humanity due to the role the radio played in inspiring people towards violent action. After watching the film, a friend and I discussed how it is possible for people to become so influenced by media. In the context of this discussion, we raised the notion that media enables people to see their own views reflected in the mass. Although in the case of Rwanda, the impact of radio in this regard led to horrendous outcomes, the principle of the power of radio holds true for groups attempting to achieve some form of social justice. As people begin to see their own views shared by others, a mass consciousness and common mission is formed and strengthened. In this way, CR can be seen as a catalyst for change. So, perhaps the criteria for success needs to focus on the extent to which a CR program is able to inspire discussion and debate and encourage participation in decision-making among members of a community.

Posted By Heather Gilberds

Posted Jul 30th, 2008

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *