The role of media in promoting good causes is indispensable. However, in some cases, media may fail to play that role. This could happen because there are political or financial pressures, or lack of knowledge, interest and understanding of certain issues. In such cases community media can have a vital role. Even more, they are essential when it comes to giving voice to particular social groups and communities, notably those disadvantaged. This kind of media exist in many countries in all continents, and in media systems they usually stand in-between public broadcasting and private media outlets. I will try to give some more information about these media, their roles and the possibilities for preserving their sustainability by presenting findings from the book "Community media Sustainability Guide" published by Internews in 2009.
Community service is at the heart of community media. All community media must have a community and the intention to serve and build the community. In the community media environment, communities tend to be deﬁned in terms of geography (a group of people living in a particular location)
or interest (religion, politics, culture,hobby, or any other interest). A quality community service is one that:
• Validates and strengthens communities
• Covers topics that are relevant to the community
• Encourages community discussion and debate
Participation is the key deﬁning feature of community media; it is what places community media outside of traditional media models, in which audiences are
passive receivers of messages. In the community media model, senders and receivers together create messages and meaning through participatory processes.
Social, institutional and financial sustainability.
Social sustainability refers to all the social processes that are needed to create sustainable community media, including community participation in governance, management, operations, content production, generation of income, and feedback.
Conditions to achieve social sustainability:
• Community ownership of the communication process.
• Development of local content, through community participation in the selection of topics, research, writing, ﬁlming, recording, and editing.
• Language and cultural relevance.
Institutional sustainability refers to the policies, governance structures, management structures and styles, staffing, internal relationships, and practices etc.
The important issues in achieving institutional sustainability are:
• Enabling legislation, regulation and policies for community media.
• Internal democracy of staff and management systems;
• Appropriate technology.
• Networking and convergence.
Financial sustainability is the organization’s ongoing income-generating potential, and includes cash and donations of goods and services.
The question of whether governments should directly or indirectly ﬁnance community media is controversial. In some places, direct state support would dramatically reduce independence or create the perception that the media are the voice of government. However, most policies that encourage long-term sustainability are those that also include some form of indirect ﬁnancial support.When there is government support, in order to ensure independence, it should be administered through an independent public body, separate from the regulatory agency or any government ministry. The body should include both government and civil society representation.
Examples of ﬁnancing include:
• A community radio fund paid into by the state (such as in Hungary or the United Kingdom, for example; in South Africa, the fund also includes support from the media industry and donors).
• A tax on cable or telecommunication operators (Colombia).
• A percentage of license fees from commercial stations (Denmark).
• A percentage of advertising revenue from commercial stations (France).
• Indirect public funding in the form of support for employment, skills development, and lifelong learning, social inclusion programs, cultural programs, youth programs, or neighborhood regeneration support (South Africa and the United Kingdom, for example).
• Support from local councils, local community funds, or regional bodies.
I would like to know of community media in the countries you come from, or know well. What is their program like? Did they manage to give an important contribution to community and in what way? Where does the support come from? How much the role of community media is different from that of mainstream media? What is their role in fostering development?