World Radio Day: Experts highlight community radio as tool for development
In his message to mark this year’s celebration, which is themed ‘Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace,’ the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, noted that even in today’s world of digital communications, radio still reaches more people than any other media platform.
“It conveys vital information and raises awareness on important issues. And it is a personal, interactive platform where people can air their views, concerns, and grievances. Radio can create a community.
“For the United Nations, especially our peacekeeping operations, radio is a vital way of informing, reuniting and empowering people affected by war. On this World Radio Day, let us recognize the power of radio to promote dialogue, tolerance and peace.“
Celebrated every February 13th and now in its eighth year following its declaration by UNESCO in 2012, the World Radio Day places an emphasis on radio as a medium which raises awareness as well as strengthens the networking among broadcasters.
It is an occasion that draws attention to the unique value of radio, which remains the medium to reach the widest audience and is currently taking up new technological forms and devices.
This year, UNESCO has encouraged all countries to celebrate by undertaking activities with diverse partners, such as national, regional and international broadcasting associations and organizations, non-governmental organizations, media organizations, outlets as well as the public at large.
In Nigeria, there are over 500 radio stations with, at least, 56 of them community owned.
Ralph Akinfeleye, a Professor of Mass Communications, said the proliferation of radio stations across Nigeria had had an impact in combating fake news and hate speeches.
“It is very significant for us as we move towards the zero hour of election 2019 that we should be working towards peace, concord, and harmony within the country using radio as a powerful weapon to diffuse all these hate speeches and fake news,” Prof. Akinfeleye, who is also a media consultant to University of Lagos Radio and Television.
Prof. Akinfeleye also said that radio has been effective as a tool to mobilise development.
“If you look at some of the studies we did for the UNICEF and UNFPA, radio has been trying to do the needful by supporting communication for development and never communication about development. There is a difference between communication for development and communication about development.
“It appears to me most of the radio stations, the ones owned by federal government and state government, it’s even worse at the state level, instead of using for development you’re using radio for propaganda and other things that is not the philosophy of radio for development.”
While it is widely seen as a tool to combat hate speech, radio stations across in Nigeria have also been used to spread hates and misinformation among the populace.
At the inauguration of a radio station in Enugu in 2017, the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Kawu, said the commission would impose heavy sanctions on broadcast stations that promote hate speeches.
Mr Kawu had said, “We are already seeing signs of hate speeches among Nigerians and would not tolerate it in the broadcast industry as we prepare for the 2019 elections.”
Three months later, the wielded its big hammer on 23 radio stations for various offences including breaches of the rules on hateful speech and unverifiable claims.
The stations were fined a total of N2.9 million.
Ekanem Antia, Assistant Director Public Affairs, NBC, described this year’s World Radio Day theme as apt especially as Nigeria goes into elections.
Antia said, “Community radio has been very successful. It is fulfilling its mandate as we have not had cause to sanction or withdraw licences. We have observed what they are doing in the communities in educating the people.
“Radio depth of penetration gives it an edge over other mediums, it also give listeners the platform to air their opinions. Radio has been very effective in driving development I must say.”
For Paul Emokhare, Station Coordinator, Diamond FM, University of Ibadan, community radio stations had not just been effective in bridging the gap between urban and the rural people; they had also given the people a voice.
He said, “The stations are being operated by people in the communities, voicing the voices of the people. The issue of intermediary no longer exists. It has put an end to the issue of representation, as people in the communities are able to identify people from the communities to represent them.”
On how community radio has impacted on the economy, Emokhare said before now, due to bad access roads, agricultural products were not able to get to the urban areas.
Adding, “Now, there are programmes on radio that inform people on where to get these products in large quantity.”
To improve community radio performance, Emokhare noted “there is need for support from government. There must be a common ground of understanding, and their challenges must be prioritised.
He further stressed the need not to push everything to government. On the relevance of this year’s theme to Nigeria, he said because the media determines the mood of the people, peace is relative.
He said “radio has actually created awareness, breaking the barrier of communication.”
UNESCO is holding a workshop in Abuja today on ‘Fair and Transparent Reporting: Key to Sustainable Peace and Conflict Resolution.’
According to UNESCO’s Communication Consultant, Regional Office, Mr. Olusola Macaulay, “We felt the need to use this time to promote peace and tolerance, the theme is very apt as we try to make everybody understand that we need peace in the country.
We have to think what happens after the elections. UNESCO is trying to use radio as a tool for dialogue among the diverse groups and raise awareness that radio gives way for positive narrative.“
Radio, given its wider reach has been used in many climes as a key driver of developmental campaigns, by government, private sector and individuals.
On how radio is helping in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria, Macaulay said, “I think we are not doing badly in Nigeria but I still think there is room for more engagement, especially between the development partners and country. As much as the government talks of carrying everybody along, there is need to understand that radio can play a vital role in communicating with the people.”
Previous World Radio Day themes have included Gender Equality, Youth Participation, Radio in Humanitarian and Disaster Situations, and Radio is You.
The sub-themes for this year’s event include Promoting Dialogue and Participation and Uniting Under Common Concerns.
While the former focuses on contents that provide a platform for dialogue and debate, the latter aims at using radio programming to build tolerance and unite various conflicting groups.
The Executive Director for Institute for Media and Society, Dr Akin Akinbolu, said part of the ways radio programming can be used to foster tolerance in Nigeria is to have diversity in the newsrooms
“There is need to have diversity in the newsroom, gender, religious, ethnic diversity. This would help build a good foundation.
Journalists should be sensitive about the news they report, and give equal voice to sections of the population; the old and the young, women and children, northwest, North South and so on.
On how Nigeria can benefit from the concept of the World Radio Day, he said, “I think more stations are coming out, giving licences to more people.
Although in Nigeria at the moment, more community licences have been given but very few are operational. We need more radio stations on the grassroots level to promote and achieve development.
Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the issuance of operating licences for 16 campus radio stations, 24 community broadcasters and three public organisational FM licences across the country.
Also, on the eve of his departure, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, approved 17 community radio stations in Nigeria.
Prof. Akinfeleye said although the radio stations, including the community-owned ones, are facing challenges in terms of what he described as “content plurality,” radio remains “a tool for promoting Nigeria and protecting the natural resources in Africa and Nigeria in particular.”