Saturday, December 08, 2012

Harmonizing development and communication efforts

Rural radio as the name implies is essentially community based. It has to reflect the genuine propensities, ideas and lifestyles of ordinary people their access to the range of facilities available to urban dwellers are minimal. It should provide an opportunity for these marginalized sections to express their opinions and have their grievances redressed. Rural radio is an avenue for uplift and an opportunity to gainfully participate in strengthening their links in all spheres from economic development to cultural enhancement. It is a vehicle to achieve social progress and contribute for shared gains.

It is accepted that integrated rural development would provide a meaningful system for harmonizing development and communication efforts aimed at giving villagers a better deal. The patterns of media behaviour among Sri Lankans and the kind of information available to them. Media includes radio, television newspapers, internet, magazines and cinema etc. In the broader context the increasing sophistication in technology has given mass media unforeseen capabilities of reaching out to a broad spectrum with greater effectiveness.

Development projects

Mass media technology is such that every urban and rural home has inevitable access to at least one of the major media organizations. It is necessary to explore the potential of directing mass media for sustained education of the community. It must be determined to what extent radio plays a development supportive role. The ultimate objective is the development and consistent news flows to the people. The positives are that radio can provide information at greater speed to a wide audience than other media.

It is imperative to reflect on the diverse opinions of broadcasting and the stipulated roles and identify the priority problems in rural communication. Major rural issues in connection with the rural development projects to be discussed over radio with the relevant parties after an extensive study. Radio could be used to motivate people in the villages to take on the responsibility for bringing about radical changes, lifestyles and socio-economic standards in their communities. This could be successfully implemented through community based radio programming and production.

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) provides more air time and adopts new broadcasting strategies to convey development information. Development oriented rural radio enables the community, to gain extensive new knowledge about development programmes and increase their participation in community activities. The perceptive advantages are that radio has contributed to learning especially through non formal educational programmes especially among those with little or no schooling. These could be enumerated as:-

* Radio can improve/develop the skills and talents of the people for development.

* Radio should create, promote and sustain self reliance and participatory development.

* Self reliance has become a key concept referring to national sovereignty and autonomy of developing countries.

Radio is a part of development. The following could be adduced in support of this connection. These can be enumerated as:- Establishing conducive climate for development - motivating to change their attitudes through common activity - providing forum for discussion, leadership and decision making.

People’s attitudes and practices

Radio has been used preliminarily as an information medium. All development projects strive to disseminate as much information as possible to the people. Public broadcasting services have specific role in this process.

There is a greater need for radio to mobilize people towards development. The potential of radio in the sphere of national development. Radio can contribute to changing people’s attitudes and practices regarding development activities.

Radio could be involved in providing solutions to development problems for coordination and or commitment from government institutions and officials. Radio will be able to change the behavioural patterns of community and motivate them for rural development. National radio (SLBC) has a long tradition of rural broadcasting starting with non formal education programmes for farmers initiated as far back as 1933 and a special rural service with farmers’ forum. The rural service of national radio has provided emphasis with the prime object of promoting paddy cultivation and subsidiary crops.

Radio programmes

The national radio network has contributed immensely towards making an impact on the rural community. National radio was decentralized to provide a more effective service and establish a closer link with the masses. Accordingly regional broadcasting services were set up. SLBC has spread the services to grass roots level. It is immensely suited to reflect and depict rural activities. It is the most potent media at rural level.

The Mahaweli Community Radio was set up in 1981. It was established to motivate Mahaweli settlers to take an active part in agricultural productivity and socio-economic development through community based radio programmes and production. Mahaweli Community Radio has animated settlers and involved them by participation in activities that encourage self actualization and a sense of community and involvement in development.

At the inception of the Mahaweli Community Radio in 1981, Knud Ebbsen first consultant to Mahaweli Community Radio set out the vision of the M C R Radio Project. ‘Mahaweli Community Radio’ encourage villages to take an active part in the development process or even better to take their own initiative to improve living conditions in their community development implies change and the first change to take place in the attitude of the people who will be directly affected by the development. They have to be helped to understand that they can be something to help themselves, instead of just waiting for others to take action. If they do not realize this they and their community will simply remain in the infinitely long queue of backward rural areas. The project was based on the belief that radio would be powerful instrument to motivate villagers.

Agriculture constitutes the major occupation of the peasantry. It is incumbent to assist them through programmes to help increase cultivation practices which are proven and time tested to increase productivity. The radio programmes help farmers with information and relevant instructions on agricultural development. The radio motivated them towards improving agricultural productivity and helped in socio-economic development. Educational needs and communication patterns of rural and urban audiences to explore the potential of radio as a vehicle of educational messages and to convey to the participants new ideas and experiences. The radio network has contributed immensely towards making an impact on the rural community.

It is important that the educational benefits which radio brings should be accessible to the rural community to help create a vibrant and receptive public opinion on matters vitally important to the country. Moreover good governance requires that its agricultural, health, educational and other forms of national propaganda should reach the rural population which doubtless would stand to benefit to a greater degree compared to their urban counterparts. The radio uses strategies as folk media in development communication. Highlighting some of the more specific problems confronting them and emphasize the importance of participation of officials and villagers in all deliberations impacting on their well-being.

Environmental issues

Radio programmes embrace a wide spectrum problems existing in villages and evolving suitable solutions and discuss alternatives leading to a dialogue. Radio provides opportunities to an exchange of views and help share experience among the rural community. Radio effectively generates awareness and extends knowledge on environmental issues among the rural community. In the developing countries radio drama is still a popular and effective means of transmitting development related messages. It corresponds to the communication patterns of people and combines in an ideal manner elements of information education and environment. Technology in the electronic media has introduced new devices and methodologies. Digital and computer based radio and the increasing global transfer of information are forcing broadcasting institutions to develop new strategies and structures. All areas are effected from programming. Production and on-air operation to various levels of administration and management.

The strata of recipients has expanded, children, youth, women are important target audiences. Youth and women from an essential part of the social fabric. It must cater to expectations of children, youth and women to uplift their creativity, skills and motivate and provide them with new concepts and inspiration in production of target oriented programmes. Educational needs and communication patterns of rural and urban audience to explore the potential of radio as a vehicle of educational messages and to convey to the participants new ideas and experiences.

Rural communication today deals with methods to give expression to people’s views and to enable them to articulate without reservation. Its success is dependent on their participation. Radio from what transpires is a potent instrument of change and an impetus towards energising society and adding new values to combine efforts to success. Rural communication is central to the government’s efforts to mobilize people’s efforts towards declared development goals.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has evinced a keen and abiding interest in rural radio during visits to the Ruhunu Sewaya (regional radio station) in 1985 during the tenure of the writer as Director Ruhunu Sewaya. (Development commences at grass roots level and the paradigm shift from urban to rural is an indication of the importance attached to ordinary people in galvanising energy for development which will ultimately uplift living standards).

Courtesy Daily News by Colvin Jayaweera, Retired Deputy Director General, 
(Regional Services and Community Radio), Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation