Hands-On Community Radio

Project Description

The “Hands-On Community Radio” workshop was an experimental initiative in community radio development and education initiated and sponsored by the Media South Asia project of the Institute for Development Studies (Sussex University, UK). A follow-up attachment to a regional workshop on community radio held in Kathmandu in February 2002, the workshop was designed to provide field-level practitioners and facilitators from key community radio groups in South Asia with practical exposure to community radio.

The workshop was organised and supported by the Media Support Network (MSN) of CECI-Asia with additional support from UNESCO. The project aims were to 1) facilitate in-depth exposure to working community radio stations, 2) provide a forum in which to share experiences of different approaches in use in South Asia, and 3) provide hands-on training. The ten participants were grassroots level producers and managers from emerging community radio initiatives in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan

Alongside the logistic challenges of organising such a workshop on limited funds in a short period of time, the workshop presented additional challenges in terms of the language of communication. There was no one common language amongst the group, nor were all of the participants used to such an intensive schedule or extensive travel, especially by bus over mountainous roads.

Introductory Session, December 3rd and 4th

After informal introductions between participants, MSN facilitators and local trainers, the workshop started in Kathmandu with two full days of planning, discussion and training. The feel and pace of the program was established with the first exercises as participants interviewed each other, building their relationships and starting to gain a better understanding of the variety of emerging community radio projects in the South Asian region. The “hands-on” element had begun!

With guest speakers and trainers covering a range of topics and skill sets, including the role and philosophy of community radio, volunteerism and strategies for sustainability, interview techniques and equipment usage, the first two days laid the foundation for the next phase of the workshop with participants ready to investigate Nepal’s community radio scene and build their own capacities as community radio producers in the process.

Study Tour, December 5th - 8th

The study tour allowed participants to share ideas and opinions regarding the various media outfits visited. The logistical confines of bus travel facilitated on-going dialogue and contributed to the networking opportunities available at arm’s reach. Part of the success of the study tour was a direct result of the close physical proximity of the participants.

Before leaving Kathmandu, participants visited Radio Sagarmatha, the first community radio station in Nepal, as well as Communications Corner, a production house and country-wide news distribution centre based in the city. Although the overall experience of these two groups is clearly beyond the immediate reach of any of the participants’ organisations, the exposure was useful providing a good introduction to the community radio environment in Nepal and interaction with producers from specific programmes (rural community reporters, news, etc) was useful.

In Pokhara, the group studied two FM stations, Machhapuchre and Himchuli, with the distinction between non-profit and for-profit, local versus community radio becoming questions of much interest and key areas of investigation.

The following day, participants visited Radio Lumbini in Butwal, in which community ownership and involvement is more evident in the station’s approach to programming. In the adjacent district of Palpa, the group met with a community television operator in Tansen.

On the last day of the study tour, the group arrived at Radio Madanpokhara, a village station broadcasting two daily three-hour blocks of programme. As with the other stations on the tour, participants saw the station’s facilities and met at length with staff, in this case, volunteers and the station manager.

Station Internship and Hands-On Training, December 9th - 14th

The second week of the workshop saw the group divided in two, with half the participants staying in the village of Madanpokhara and the other half returning to Butwal for five days of hands-on training, programme production and on-site research into the functioning of these two community radio stations. The participation and support of the two radio stations was a key factor in the success of the workshop. The days were full of sharing experiences with local volunteers, interviewing listeners, analysing program schedules, discussing shows, writing scripts and ultimately producing radio programmes on-site.

The training encouraged a high degree of collaboration within the groups, demonstrating how one can “contribute” to a programme and be part of team. Maximum time was spent at the radio stations themselves, allowing participants to experience the immediacy of broadcasting and giving them a chance to absorb the atmosphere commonly found in community radio stations; one where live broadcasting, preparation of programmes, crisis-management and the arrival of guests often happens simultaneously. The group used the studio facilities in the hours between broadcasts allowing for increased comfort level in a studio situation.


A final session for feedback was held on December 14th after returning to Kathmandu. The feedback received from the participants was encouraging, both that the workshop had met its key goals (exposure, training, production and networking) as well as for the possibilities of future workshops of this style.

Key points:

  • The group unanimously cited “increased confidence in radio production” as a primary outcome: participants were clearly more comfortable doing radio, from using the equipment to conduction interviews to realising a finished programme.
  • Participants rated the “hands-on” training and production experience within an established and functioning community radio station as most valuable; however all agreed that the study tour component was essential as it provided them with exposure to a range of community and local radio models and a clear sense of the importance of adapting these models to suit local needs.
  • The balance of components was confirmed as appropriate, through again unanimously, the group felt the workshop as a whole could have been longer, particularly the field attachment, as they were still gaining new information as this portion came to an end.
  • Several participants relatively new to community radio related that they were now inspired to participate more actively and intensively their local community radios
  • In reference to the language issue, participants, especially those with the most limited English, said that although it was difficult at times, the strategies for both translation and summaries worked adequately, and that the range of participants should not be substituted for a common language, that the variety of participation and experiences present were an important additional learning component.
  • One participant summed it up when he said: “We can start a community radio by generating resources from the community. I’ve learned new concepts about making programmes: brainstorming, interviewing, recording but the most motivating thing is my belief in community radio is stronger”.

    Challenges and Lessons Learned

    The challenge of language was the most apparent. With participants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and both North and South India, facilitators from Canada and Mexico and trainers from Nepal, we had, as one facilitator put it, enough language groups represented to start our own UN agency and not one that was common to everyone. This challenge was largely met by the team spirit of cooperation that prevailed among the group with multilingual participants providing either on the spot translation and/or summaries following different sessions. After the first day in Kathmandu, the language challenge was additionally facilitated by the accompaniment of a volunteer from Radio Sagarmatha fluent in English and Hindi as well as Nepali.

    The challenge of a limited budget was met through a variety of means: major in-kind contributions by the facilitators and trainers, shared rooms in budget hotels, billeting with families, travel mostly by bus and subsistence perdiems. Economising in this fashion allowed for stretching funds to allow for an extended workshop with a high level of input from community radio experts.

    The facilitators had originally planned to document more of the workshop through regular press releases and audio-visual reports; however limited access to equipment and internet and the hectic pace of the workshop made this impossible. Two press releases were produced and the workshop was well documented by participants for their own purposes. The absence of a regional organisation with facilities to support documentation is clearly a problem for networking efforts of this type.


    Given the limited financial, technical and human resources and the short time for preparation (resulting in very limited in-country support), the workshop went off extremely well. The participants clearly learned an enormous amount of practical information: from each other, their host organisations and the trainers; and the exposure to working community radios provided a major stimulus to the participants’ vision for community radio development in countries where it is still in its infancy. An essential and critically important team spirit emerged within a remarkably short period of time with the entire group working and participating on a very equitable basis, which in light of the language issues was a marvel.

    Report prepared by CECI-Asia Media Support Network; contact Karen McHarg kmcharg@vsnl.net or Ian Pringle ipringle@pcmedia.org


    Press Releases:
  • Community Radio Broadcasters Gather in Nepal; December 5 (2002)
  • South Asian Communities in for Local Media; December 10 (2002)
  • 1029 Words about Exploring Community Radio; December 12 (2002)

    Workshop Planning and Reporting Documents:
  • Programme outline
  • List of participants
  • Budget
  • Financial report
Home | News | Sitemap | Contact Us | About Us | Feedback (Best Viewed in 800x600)