“The only communication media that has a popular mission is the radio”, a senior said on 9 May at the European Parliament. “The radio is the media par excellence of the civil society and citizens can listen to it in an anonymous way”, he added.
Emmanuel Boutterin, vice president of AMARC International, defended in the debate “Communication Rights in the Digital Spectrum” the necessity of the community radios to ensure plurality and diversity in the media.
AMARC, an international non-governmental organization, serves the community radio movement to amplify the voices of the excluded and marginalized trough community media and new ICTs. “The radio is a social media of proximity and we need to defend the territorial values”, he said.
The Community Radio Sector, has proposed during the last years many measures that are helping to create a plural Digital Environment. However, there is still a lot of work to do and the sector call the European Union and its Member States to “create a balance between the public and commercial services”, according with Emmanuel Boutterin.
One of the main objectives of community radios, is to ensure an equitable distribution of the spectrum between public, commercial and community broadcasters. Access to information is a right, but the problem “is the articulation between a fundamental right and the democratic use of a scarce public resource”, said Bernard Dubuisson, Head of Radio Unit for the Belgian Media Regulatory Authority, during the debate.
We live in a world full of digital platforms and with more accessibility than years before; but the broadcasting did not change at the same level. This situation affects directly to the community radios, which have less resources to participate in the digital revolution.
These kind of media have a strong popular support, reaches many millions of people across Europe and are an essential contributor to freedom of expression and access to information. That's why “we have to stimulate public radio's interests to not fall behind”, explained Emmanuel Boutterin.
The spectrum policy is changing at the same time technology does. Nowadays, internet is the principal way people have access to information, but not every citizen has access to it and, in consequence, to community radios. The European Union is working on this necessity, investing €9,000 millions on technology, and promoting cable connections as the safest way for transmit information.
Besides all the good intentions and efforts of the radio sector and the EU, European professionals of the media think that there is still lack of financial resources, of legislation, and of recognition of the contribution of this sector to media pluralism.
During the debate, some of them explained the need of an approach in three levels: the EU must insist Member States to fulfil the objectives, ask countries to create a legislation based on Human Rights and the unification of all platforms, to defend diversity and pluralism. “We need more energy from the EU ”, said a member from the English Community Media Association.
About the spectrum's distribution, they agree that is not only an EU issue, is also a national and solidarity problem. All countries have to create a effective system to organise this media space. “It's just a question of solidarity”, said a journalist from Antwerp, “is necessary to protect weakest addressees”.
To guarantee a true pluralism towards producers and consumers on community radios, there must be a regulation. According to Neil O' Brien, member of Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), “content's plurality is important and we have to ensure it with regulations and its performances”. “The regulator is not always the bad person, he also has a role in the community radios”, he added.
Pluralism is basic on media, and community radios are the best example. These communication media represents the real thinking of the society and their opinions about issues that maybe commercial radios forget to emphasize. The cultural diversity allows citizens and professionals to have more complete informations and learn about problems in other countries, where the main actors of the stories live.
European Parliament and the European Commission care about the problem of the digital spectrum and pluralism in community radios, but after the debate the conclusion was: “we are not asking only for more money, we are asking for more help”.