Thank you to those who have send their support and greeting to those having their own OM conferences in different parts of the world. I don't have time tonight to send a translated version, so apologies to the spanish-speaking members. We will try again tomorrow, if not we will definitely send the final report in spanish and english to be posted on the OM site.
Here is a brief summary of some of the activities we held today on our first day of presentations.
The opening welcome was offered by Professor K.E.Eapan, founder of the department of communication at the University of Bangalore. Professor Eapan introduced the conference by briefly making reference to the legacy of community studies in India, his involvement in the teaching of communication studies since 1952 and the current difficult situation of community media studies and policy in India. He pointed out the importance of having a meeting like this one here in India.
Following was Dr Sham P. Thomas, director of the department of communication at the UTC in Bangalore who welcomed the participants on behalf of the staff of UTC - hosts of the conference.
The opening address was given by Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron who traced the nature of Our Media as a network, not only through a brief summary of the past 4 conferences, but also by poibnting out some of the challenges that lie ahead. As you can see in Alfonso's document -attached- it was clearly a call for engaging in dialogue and facilitating the process of networking. The address has in a sense set the tone of the conference for the 3 days ahead. For the first time OM has been held in Asia, outside of the Americas or Europe; for the first time it isn't tied as a pre-conference to any other conference (ICA, IAMCR etc); for the first time it has been held over 4 days and has been organized without formal structures of funding in place. Alfonso again mentioned the unfortunate event of our Colombian colleagues who were discriminated by not being given a Visa in time to come.
The first day of presentations begun with 2 keynote speakers. Raghu Mainali, coordinator of Save Community Radio Nepal and Lawrence Liang a senior researcher from Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore.
Raghu Mainali gave a dramatic account of the delicate situation of independent media in Nepal since the events of February, 1st, 2005, particularly through a case study of community radio broadcasting amid government repression.
Lawrence Liang gave an engaging, lucid, humorous account of the position of independent media in the Indian scape, situated in a delicate situation between the explosion of global corporate Indian media (film industry, IT industry etc) and the panoptic gaze of the Indian government
A long, lively and interesting debate followed where it was decided that the conference will end with an OM declaration to be tested in months to come...The declaration will be drafted in the next couple of days and discussed by the participants on thursday during the last OM round table. In principle the declaration will incorporate a note of protest for the discrimination to the Colombian colleagues, a note of solidarity and call to stop the Nepalese government violent reaction against community radio broadcasters in Kathmandu, as well as an appeal to the Indian government to provide specific legislation to protect, and legitimize community media in India.
The next two panels were pretty much dedicated to community radio in India. The first panel, chaired by Ashish Sen (VOICES), was a critical examination of the lack of a suitable legal framework to define, promote and empower community radio in India. "General" Narasamma is a local activist from Hyderabad and she presented a case study started in 1997 which is currently run by 3 Dalit girls in a small village in central India with two 100-watt FM radio transmitters that have never been used for fear of government repression. The project is an active call to reclaim the media to serve the need of farmers and villagers and 150 hrs of material have been produced. While the material has never been broadcasted it is played back every two weeks at Sanghan meetings with the purpose of raising awareness and debates among the community and communicate local content of interest to the community. 23,000 people, from 70 communities have signed a petition to the Indian government to open community radio licences, unfortunately without much impact.
Rammath Bhat followed with another illustration of a community multimedia centre, the Namma Dhwani project set in Buditoke, a small village of 3,000 people in the border of three states in south-east India. The community is characterized as one of the most diverse (culturally, linguistically) in the region. The project began in 1999 and has been supported by Voices and UNESCO and currently functions as a cable community radio with adjoining telecentre and linked to a community services centre. The project carries out activities such as capacity building, training and provides a space for marginalized people such as scheduled castes and people with disabilities. Topics include health, governance, employment, entertainment, education, self-help, legal awareness etc...
Finally Sejan Venniyoor provided an informative history of the struggle for legitimizing community radio in India, from the Supreme Court of India's declaration in 1995 that the airwaves are public property to a draft community radio policy document finalized in October 2005.
The final panel of the day was a continuation of the same topic with more experiences of community radio in India. In a panel chaired by professor Leela Rao from Bangalore, we heard presentation by Ganesh Mandekar from Abhivyakti Media, Dr. Vinod Pavarala from the University of Hyderabad who shared his ethnographic research on community radio uses and needs in poor rural Indian villages, particularly with regards to issues of gender and development; Ratna Mala a student from M.S University, Tamil Nadu who gave a heartfelt account of grassroots networks in tamil nadu, and the concept of democratic media when applied to projects involving Dalits. Finally, Jethro Petitt, from the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, U.K, offered a series of cases studies of participatory communication, action research and the role of research in community participation from cases in Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Ok, more tommorrow