Media @ McGill

Mapping community media policy

Submitted by Arne on
English

By: Arne Hintz

The community radio movement has recently enjoyed significant successes in becoming recognized and supported by policy-makers. Representatives from several countries took the opportunity of the ongoing AMARC10 congress in La Plata to report on current developments.

At a panel on Monday 8 November, Gustavo Gomez from Uruguay introduced the new Uruguayan legislation for audiovisual media which has been the result of extensive consultations between the government and civil society groups. The law has been ground-breaking in reserving at least one third of the spectrum for community and non-profit broadcasters, establishing transparent and public mechanisms for frequency allocation, respecting the social characteristics and the independence of community media, and rejecting limitations on transmission power and geographic reach. The new communications act in Argentina includes similar aspects and has been widely cited at the conference as a reference model. At the same panel, representatives from Thailand, Morocco, France and Paraguay told about their successes and challenges in influencing national policy processes to establish, or maintain, supportive regulatory mechanisms. Positive policy change has also happened in South Asia, other parts of Latin America, and most recently in Nigeria, the state with the largest population in Africa.

Throughout the reports and the stories that were told at the conference, a number of factors were identified that have helped to change and improve policies: government change, civil society campaigning, particularly advocacy by AMARC, the influence of knowledgeable and creative individual campaigners, international norm-setting, interventions by transnational institutions such as UNESCO, and the existence of reference models from countries like Uruguay. Speakers also suggested to consider the role of policy change in related thematic fields, particularly concerning new ICTs.

The international project 'Mapping Global Media Policy' serves to trace and understand these factors. It seeks to map out the diversity of policy actors with their various interests, the interactions between national, local and global levels, relations between different thematic fields, and the roles of knowledge, norms and ideas. The project was presented to AMARC10 participants at a dedicated workshop on Wednesday 10th November. A group of radio activists, civil society advocates, policy experts and researchers discussed the practical implications of the project, as well as the social and political forces that have impacted policy development in various parts of the world, from South America to Eastern Europe, Thailand and East Timor.

'Mapping Global Media Policy' was developed within the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) by scholars from McGill University (Montreal), Central European University (Budapest), and University of Padova (Padova). Its online platform is available at http://www.globalmediapolicy.net. The AMARC conference served as the starting-point for creating a thematic section on community media policy on this platform.