Today’s podcast was recorded as part of the first DMU International Community Media Expo. Sitting around the table was Julian, Kiaran, Ineke, Gerhart and myself. We chatted about the role and the importance of community media and what we need to learn to make our own media.
BBC Media Action is the charitable arm of the BBC that seeks to support communication development in developing nations around the world. James Deane is the Director of Policy and Research, and in his latest blog he asks if we need to rethink how we build media organsations and institutions that support democratic accountability around the world. Deane suggests that:
Access to information that people can trust, find relevant, that underpins informed democratic debate, and can hold power to account, will depend on the existence of media institutions, not just information networks. That remains the major challenge of media support. It is a challenge that we need fresh thinking to achieve.
I agree with Deane that this isn’t just about rolling-out large media corporations, or throwing open the communication floodgates to the market, and that we do need to undertake some careful thinking about what we build and put in place for the future. As Deane argues:
Media freedom and media sustainability indicators focus on whether media is free and sustainable and less on on whether they are valued, trusted or relevant to the populations of their societies, especially those outside an educated middle class. This is especially important at a time of digital and demographic transformation.
The challenge, from my perspective, is how do we harness the independent and distrubuted technologies in which we aggregate news and media content, in which ‘brands’ are no longer as importnat, but the need for trusted informants, guides and advocates is?
John Naughton writing in The Guardian makes a very powerful point about the need for trusted sources of information in developing communities. With the use of Facebook as a tool for promoting fake news, which has led to violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, Naughton suggests that:
We have woken up to Facebook’s pernicious role in western democratic politics and are beginning to think about ways of addressing that problem in our bailiwicks. To date, the ideas about regulation that have surfaced seem ineffectual and so the damage continues. But at least liberal democracies have some degree of immunity to the untruths disseminated by bad actors who exploit Facebook’s automated targeting systems – provided by a free press, parliamentary inquiries, independent judiciaries, public-service broadcasters, universities, professional bodies and so on.
However, as Naughton goes on to point out:
Other societies, particularly the developing countries now most assiduously targeted by Facebook, have few such institutions and it is there that the company has the capacity to wreak the most havoc.
The importance of trust in our civic and community media is crucial to promoting peace and reconciliation, but do we have the right tools to do this as independent media producers and communities? Large media organisations spend a lot of time promoting their ‘brand’ identity so that it can be trusted and relied upon, but this appraoch isn’t available to small, independent, volunteer-led community media groups.
Is there a way, then, perhaps with something like the Mozilla Open Badges project, which independently verified people’s learning, to independently verify the output of reporters across different media platforms, networks and communities?
Trust is the currency that holds society togehter, and when trust dies, our social order suffers. How can we build a new infrastructure that enables trust to be implicity validated in our media use, and what would the criteria be that would demonstrate that a reporter or a media producer is a trusted source? If Uber and Tripadvisor can do this, why can’t news organisations and social media corporations put some funding and development time into producing trust tokens for community reporters?
Community media isn’t just about programming, it’s also about the access that we have to different media. The death of Trevor Baylis is perhaps a moment when we can reflect on the contribution that his invention made to understanding, conflict resolution and disaster management around the world, allowing people to listen to radio when they have no access to reliable power sources. Far sighted and innovative people like Trevor are few and far between.
There are two articles about community and community media that are worth reading from today’s Guardian. The first is a brief account by Anna Bawden of the role of community media in the UK, and the potential for a not-for-profit focus on the new Small Scale DAB proposals.
“Lucinda Guy, chair of the Community Media Association, says: “Not-for-profit media is appallingly underfunded”, despite doing “astoundingly important and brave work to heal divided communities, tackle extremism, and boost participants’ mental health. We know that the best foil to divisive rhetoric is to increase the power of moderate voices in those communities to be heard, and yet we see station managers around the country struggling to eat and pay the bills while doing this excellent and essential work to support their communities.” While the government is considering whether the new licences should reserve digital radio capacity for existing and new community stations, the CMA does not feel this goes far enough. Guy adds: “Unless SSDAB is in the ownership and control of communities, which can curate a range of stations that are interesting for local people, we fear that small-scale local radio will deliver profit, not social benefit.”
The second is a piece from George Monbiot, in which he describes how the scourge of loneliness that affects people’s health in many of our communities can be challenged with a greater focus on a sense of community.
“The evidence strongly suggests that social contact should be on prescription, as it is in Frome. But here, and in other countries, health services have been slow to act on such findings. In the UK we have a minister for loneliness, and social isolation is an official “health priority”. But the silo effect, budget cuts and an atmosphere of fear and retrenchment ensure that precious little has been done.”
I wonder when news organisation’s like the Guardian are going to join the dots and realise that community media and better social well-being are connected? I’m sure we can be providing them with a lot of evidence to demonstrate how community media works to improve communities health and well-being in practice.
This is an overview of the topics that will be covered in the twenty-third lecture for TECH3501 Community Media Leadership.
This is an overview of the topics that will be covered in the twenty-fourth lecture for TECH3501 Community Media Leadership.
This is an overview of the topics that will be covered in the twenty-second lecture for TECH3501 Community Media Leadership.
It was an entertaining and engrossing discussion tonight, when Laury, Aidan, Jagger and Ben joined John Coster and Rob Watson to talk about what we like about radio. This is our contribution to UNESCO World Radio Day.
This is an overview of the topics that will be covered in the twenty-first lecture for TECH1502 Introduction to Community Media.