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Stepping down the basics of community radio operation

Mallam Usman Jimada (right); Mr. Femi Ayeni; and Prof. Umar Pate… at the workshop in Kaduna on Thursday

Mallam Usman Jimada (right); Mr. Femi Ayeni; and Prof. Umar Pate… at the workshop in Kaduna on Thursday

THE National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the newly licensed community radio broadcasters understand the operational frameworks of the third tier of broadcasting. At the two days orientation workshop held last week in Kaduna in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as European Union (EU), the representatives of the 17 communities where the new radio stations will be located had interface with experts in the industry stepping down the basics of community radio operation.

The keynote presenter, Professor Umar Pate of the Mass Communication Department, Bayero University, Kano was pointblank on the challenges to the actualization of community radio in Nigeria. The current broadcasting system, Prof. Pate said, was deficient, elitist and urban-centered. Community broadcasting, he expressed optimism, would fill the gap, noting the new radio facility should be owned and operated by the community to advance community values and collective interests.

He listed challenges to the operation of community broadcasting as audiences’ high expectations due to exposure to competitors such as digital television, the BBC/ VOA with high technical standards, already in existence. “There is therefore the need for operators to do an audience needs analysis to set for themselves a unique identity in order to sustain their listeners,” he counseled.

Other challenges, according to him, include capacity building and development, management issues and sustainability. He advised operators to be focused on their vision which must take into consideration present day realities. The unique selling points, he said, should be research, planning, creativity, dynamism, relevance, adherence to high technical standards, promotion of people’s rights as well as upholding growth virtues of accountability and transparency. The communication scholar reiterated the need for the stations to be socially responsible in order to drive sustainability.

Specifically, he admonished operators of community radio to take cognizance of changing tastes and expectations of the audience, and urged them to be mindful of globalisation as the stations cannot operate in isolation.

He also tasked them to beware of local political intricacies and interests as well as local conflicts and insurgencies in order to ensure safety of property and personnel.

Prof. Pate listed promotion of issues of good governance and accountability; Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development as areas from where rich content could be packaged for the radio stations as he emphasized the need to be people-centred in all aspects of operation.

He recommended a realistic management structure; encouragement of volunteerism for the purpose of financial sustainability as steps to speed up the growth of community broadcasting.

He concluded by admonishing operators to be unique, relevant and community oriented. With appropriate feasibility study and gradual growth, he foresees a bright future for community broadcasting in the country.

The workshop attracted a total of 78 participants comprising representatives of newly licensed community radio operators, facilitators from the NBC, UNDP and the EU, community development experts, the academia and members of the press.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Director General of the NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba had congratulated the newly licensed community radio broadcasting operators stressing their importance as pioneers. He emphasized that their operation would determine the fate of other numerous communities itching to obtain licence to operate radio at the grassroots. Mba warned that information was not just about entertainment but information, he insisted, “must make a difference between access to health and poverty, education and crisis, and indeed has become a matter of life and death.”

He stressed the need for reorientation to make broadcasting serve the social and economic needs of the people, for a developed and socially cohesive nation. He underscored the importance of community radio as a third tier of broadcasting availing Nigerians living in the rural areas access to adequate information that could save lives and deepen the partnerships between the government and the governed.

For community radio to be relevant, Mba said, must focus its programming on issues of poverty, agriculture, health, gender inequality, education, and other social problems common to that community. He urged operators to ensure total compliance with the terms and conditions of their licenses as provided for in the NBC Act, Nigeria Broadcasting Code, and all relevant laws as breach of the rules would attract sanction including revocation of licence depending on the gravity of the violation.

Mallam Akilu Abubakar Atiku represented Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State at the opening ceremony last Wednesday. The governor appreciated the choice of Kaduna as venue of the workshop and wished the newly licensed operators success in their endeavours.

While commending the efforts of the NBC in ensuring that Nigeria perfect its march to digital terrestrial broadcasting, El-Rufai urged media operatives to continue to use the facility to promote participatory democracy and national cohesion. He challenged the newly licensed community broadcasters to always uphold the ethics of the profession in the discharge of their duties.

Altogether, the workshop featured 10 paper presentations such as Legal Framework for the Operations of Community Broadcasting in Nigeria by Mrs. Alheri Saidu; The Place of Community Broadcasting in National Information Policy by Dr. Mujtaba Sada; Technical Parameters of Community Broadcasting in Nigeria by Mr. Lawrence Anyejo; Community Broadcasting within the Ambit of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code by Mrs. Bunmi Cole; the Challenge of Managing Community Broadcast Station in Nigeria by Mr. Faruk Salah; and Revenue Drive and its Management in a Community Broadcast station as Provided by the Relevant Laws and Regulation by Mr. Boniface Ekwealor.

Other presentations were Researching the Community Broadcast Audience, a Base for Quality Programming by Mallam Usman Jimada; Community Broadcasting a Tool for Peaceful Coexistence by Mr. Femi Ayeni; Building Harmonious Relation between Community Broadcasting and other tiers of Broadcasting by Mallam Awwalu Salihu; as well as The Challenge of Making Community Broadcasting Truly People Owned by Dr. Armstrong Idachaba.

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