Written by: Valentine Eben, AMARC International Consultant
The FCCM continues its work today October 24, 2014 at the FAO’s Headquarters in Rome. The day’s theme is “towards inclusive rural communication services.” And the session is chaired by Venus Jennings, Programme Specialist at UNESCO. The session was divided in to three panels: Policy and Institutional frameworks; investment and partnerships and capacity development.
Mario Acunzo, FAO’s Communication for Development Officer, reminded participants that these are the three issues on which the FCCM will develop recommendations for the Global Dialogue on Family Farming to be held in the framework of the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF); where global agreements/decisions will be made.
Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, spoke first in which he shared to use the words of Ms. Jennings “the findings of an international comparative report which he authored." Mr. Mendel amongst other things suggested recommending independent regulatory bodies as the best way to structure media regulatory systems.
Speaking after Mr. Mendel was Leul Gebru, Deputy Director General of Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, who elaborated on the steps his government has taken to encourage the growth of community radio—to help social cohesion in this country of 85 nations, 100 different languages and more than 95 million people. Some of the steps include the reservation of frequencies for community radio as well as a cheap and easy community radio licensing process, costing just $300 for a station with a $50 annual renewal fees. Mr. Gebru lamented the lack of funding sources, creating sustainability problems, as stations cannot afford even the low license renewal cost. Hence he recommended working on sustainable funding mechanisms.
The next speaker was Francesco Diasio, the secretary general of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). He emphasized the two foundational elements that should be considered in discussing community media; especially in the context of scare resources. The first being the respect of a fundamental right to information and the second being access to a public resource—in this case frequency.
Mr. Diasio recommended regulatory bodies to manage this public resource to serve the public interest—in the real sense of the word—. He also talked about the importance of ownership in the community media discussion, and the need to integrate new technologies like mobile telephony with radio; while benefiting from the privacy protections offered by the anonymous nature of traditional radio.
Norma Madeo, a spokeswoman for Argentina's Agriculture Ministry discussed the partnership between her government and community media makers with a focus on encouraging a participatory landscape. She recommended a conscious effort to get civil society actively involved in the issue of community media.
Ms. Magdalena Blum, co-chairperson Steering Committee of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services, talked about the need to provide all stakeholders in the value chain with knowledge management information as well as on going efforts to incorporate farmer’s knowledge back into the Advisory Services, seeing farmers are supposed to be partners. She also talked about “the new financial mechanisms to support farmers’ organization to have a better demand led approach and to support farmers so that they can pay for the services they will like to have, and financing access to knowledge information and technologies.”
The presentations were concluded by Sarah Cardey of the University of Reading. Ms. Cardey talked about farmers innovation systems within the context of an on going research in Uganda and Kenya. The research pointed to the fact that innovation almost never happens in isolation hence the need to encourage and provider farmers and other stakeholders with the resources, networking opportunities and settings to encourage innovation. She also pointed to the need for clear guidelines for the private and public role in Extension services and communication. Hence policy needs to focus on protecting and strengthening farmers’ organizations to be able to participate upstream in the value chains, and also be able to access quality services.