The importance of community media in breaking barriers

Community media, media made for the community by the community, are non-profit, inclusive, participatory, and aim at representing those groups that are usually marginalised and under-represented by ‘traditional’ commercial media.

According to a definition by the International Programme for the Development of Communication, “[c]ommunity-based media ensure media pluralism, diversity of content, and the representation of a society’s different groups and interests […] encourage open dialogue and transparency of administration at local level and offer a voice to the voiceless.”

As such, the importance of community media cannot be underestimated. Though they usually reach a smaller audience, their capacity to offer a platform for under-represented groups means that they are a useful tool for integration and participation in society, which is particularly valuable for migrant and refugee communities in new host countries.

For migrants and marginalised communities, community media are a way to directly participate in society, to bring their own content and language knowledge to the forefront and to reach out to the diaspora providing useful, interesting and entertaining content.

Community media also allow migrants to broadcast in their own language, whereas traditional media would mostly broadcast in the country’s official language, which is not necessarily well understood by newly arrived especially. While one-language broadcasts could potentially be exclusionary as well, there are many interesting experiments of multi-language radio broadcasts, which are very successful in breaking barriers among different communities.

The capacity to create bridges among diverse groups, be they different migrant groups or migrants and ‘local’ communities, is particularly important for integration purposes, and allows for an exchange of knowledge and the opportunity to value each others’ cultures and traditions without aiming at a one-way assimilation into host societies.

Community media can teach a lot to traditional media as well: because “treatment of migration by the mass media has a direct impact both on social debate as on public opinion [… m]edia professionals should offer an accurate picture of immigration, avoiding sensationalism, trivialisation or paternalism. Informing about the cultures of origin of the main migrant communities and about the normal aspects of the migration phenomenon in society can contribute to overcome refusal and diffidence.”

If you would like to know more about community media, you can read this interview from the Council of Europe and this article by Nadia Bellardi, from Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE).

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