Electronic networks have given communities a new power, capable of holding leaders accountable, sharing information and knowledge and directing public attention to issues otherwise ignored. We have lots of new tools that permit us to contribute to the public debate. But how do we call this new way of interacting? There are several words that describe bits and pieces of the concept: citizen journalism, social media, community media, participatory journalism and civic media, among others.
Starting with civic media, we know MIT describes it as follows “‘civic media’ refers to any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among the area’s residents”. Also, according to Professor Henry Jenkins of the C4FCM, “Civic media helps provide people with the skills they need to process, evaluate, and act upon knowledge in circulation and insures a diversity of inputs and mutual respect necessary for democratic deliberation”. So let’s say civic media can be seen as the more general name given to the field. What then does community media mean?
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.
Community media is “any form of media that is created and controlled by a community, either a geographic community or a community of identity or interest”. Community media are characterised by their accountability to the communities they serve. They emerge as a result of popular movements that strive to attain an important space in citizen participation and demand the right to own and operate free from political or commercial interference.
Community media is one that is operated:
- in the community,
- for the community,
- about the community and
- by the community
Today, radio is the most widespread electronic communications device in the world and community radio is a practical and cost-effective means of reaching and connecting the world’s poorest communities. But we think internet technology opens up infinite new possibilities for community media and will slowly but surely replace the radio’s hegemony. Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have proofed that even in mature democracies there is a need for alternative information outlets and show us the potential for democracy and participation within global and real-time contexts.
If you want to read further on Community Media, you should visit:
Community Media Association (CMA): as the UK representative body for the community broadcasting sector, the Community Media Association (CMA) is committed to promoting access to the media for people and communities. Their objectives include: increase recognition of community radio and other forms of community media (including online radio and television, free to air community and local television and community film makers) as an important delivery agent for local aspirations on increasing volunteering, education and employment opportunities, improving local accountability and democracy; increasing community cohesion and safety and understanding and inter-cultural and inter-generational communication.
Community Media: identity, space and social change: this blog about community media is put together by a team of three students studying Communication for Development at Malmö University. It looks at how community media, particularly community radio, is used by local communities; the impact it can have particularly during times of natural disaster; how financial challenges influence how community media is used and where community radio stations fit in this fast-changing world of new technology.