“Community broadcasters are a crucial part of a healthy, pluralistic media sector. They are independent and not-for-profit, and are governed by and in service to the community they represent.”
The Community Media Sustainability Policy Series has been created to assist media regulators and government institutions to provide a regulatory environment that recognises the value of community media and supports its long-term sustainability. Developed in conjunction with the Centre for Law and Democracy, it builds upon the recommendations from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) event on Community Media Sustainability: Strengthening Policies and Funding, held in September 2015. The event brought together governments, broadcasting regulators, community radio networks, academia, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as intergovernmental and UN organisations, to discuss concrete ways ensure a healthy future for community media across the world.
The series of policy briefs offer information around seven key policy themes, which need to be addressed in order to ensure a sustainable community media sector. Each theme includes an introduction, discusses key policy issues and international standards related to that issue, and offers recommendations for policymakers, as well as a policy checklist. The themes are as follows:
- Definition of Community Broadcasting - Providing for a clear definition of community broadcasting is the first step in the creation of a regulatory system that can promote a robust and healthy sector. Community broadcasters are generally independent, not-for-profit, and governed by the communities they serve. They form an important “third pillar” of a healthy pluralistic media sector, alongside commercial and public broadcasters. Having a clear understanding of what is covered by the term ‘community broadcaster’ is not always obvious, due to the huge variety of ‘on-the-ground’ situations around the world. This section therefore seeks to define what is meant by the terms community, independence, governance by the community, and service to the community in the context of community broadcasting.
- Formal Recognition - This section looks at the importance of being formally recognised as a distinct third, broadcasting section, alongside public service and commercial broadcasting.
- Licensing Systems - This section looks at the need for fair, transparent, and appropriate licensing systems to be in place.
- Reserving Spectrum - The issue addressed in this policy brief is access to spectrum. If community broadcasters cannot access broadcasting distribution systems, and in particular frequency spectrum, they will not be able to distribute their content, and the whole idea of community broadcasting will falter.
- Providing Public Funding - Funding for community broadcasters is a core issue that determines the sustainability and development trajectory of this sector. As a result, ensuring adequate funding and the ability to mobilise resources should be a core goal of the regulatory framework for community broadcasting.
- Access to Private Sources of Funding & Support - While public sources provide an essential supplement, private sources of funding, both commercial and from the community, are a lifeblood for many community broadcasters around the world. In important ways, this is also a key part of the relationship between the broadcaster and the community, with the latter providing support in different ways, including local commercials and volunteers.
- Digital Terrestrial Transition & Digital Distribution Methods - As the world is moving toward switching off analogue terrestrial transmission of broadcasting signals and replacing that with digital terrestrial transmission, it is essential that community broadcasting not get left behind in the digital terrestrial transition. A key issue here to be considered by policymakers is ensuring that community broadcasters have access to the same ‘equitable’ portion of the frequency spectrum that they had in the analogue world.
Other sections include:
Policy Checklist - provides a checklist of all the policy conditions that need to be in place in order for community media to thrive.
UNESCO website on September 19 2017.