Pakistani FM Radio Sector to Establish Platform to Promote Professionalism and Local Community Development Agenda

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About 40 licensed independent FM radio stations in Pakistan have decided to establish a formal platform to represent the radio broadcast sector’s interests and to promote greater professionalism and an enhanced and prioritized focus on local communities to become the premier voice of the people across Pakistan.

This was resolved at a National Radio Conference convened in Islamabad in December 2011 to mark the first 10 years of independent radio broadcast sector in Pakistan, to review successes and challenges of the first 10 years of private radio in Pakistan and to chart a course for the second decade of radio.

The two-day conference, which was also attended by educational broadcasters – campus FM radio stations of universities with journalism and communications departments – and government-run radio stations in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, adopted the following Declaration:

DECLARATION – National Radio Conference – December 9, 2011 – Islamabad, Pakistan

“We the independent FM stations of Pakistan, representing about 40 private FM stations in all four provinces of Pakistan – and Azad Kashmir, at a National Conference Radio Conference held in Islamabad on December 8 and 9, 2011, by Intermedia Pakistan, which convened to review the successes and challenges of the independent radio sector for the last decade and to chart a roadmap for professional development for next decade, assert the following:

As a professional sector, the independent FM stations of Pakistan affirm our commitment to community development through representation of community interests and focus on community service through our broadcast operations.

The independent radio stations of Pakistan are establishing an association that will focus on development of this sector along professional lines dedicated to defending its rights and responsibilities, business and professional development, forging partnerships with local communities and other stakeholders and serving as the primary watchdog of local community interests across Pakistan. For this purpose, a Steering Committee comprising broadcasters Waseem Ahmed, Naeem Mirza, Rafiq Fieca, Mahesh Kumar and Azhar Hussain has been set up with Adnan Rehmat of Intermedia Pakistan as coordinator, which will draft the mission statement, objectives, constitution and rules and regulations of the proposed association of independent radio stations of Pakistan.

The independent FM radio sector in Pakistan is a natural partner of the civil society of Pakistan and the development sector in our collective endeavor of promoting a development agenda for the local communities across Pakistan.

The independent FM radio sector in Pakistan is happy to serve in – and seeks to strengthen – its principal role as a bridge between the local communities and the local governments to promote a community development agenda through local dialogue.

The educational broadcasters – particularly through the Educational Broadcasters Forum (EBF), which represents universities in the country with journalism departments and campus radio stations – support the independent radio broadcasters in their cause for greater professionalization and offer a partnership between these two groups to further promote the professionalization of the overall broadcast sector in Pakistan.

“Through a unanimous resolution, we the independent FM stations of Pakistan also demand the following:

The independent radio broadcast sector should be recognized and acknowledged as the principal voice of local communities across Pakistan

The regulatory regime governing the broadcast sector in Pakistan should be urgently reformed in consultation with the independent broadcast sector, particularly the radio sector, to reflect the new dynamics of the media landscape as the current laws predate the existing broadcast sector and which were drafted without consultation. Among other reforms this should include representation of the independent broadcast sector, including the independent radio sector, on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Board.

The federal, provincial and district governments should acknowledge and approve the independent radio sector as one of the key recipients of government resources dedicated to development as a community service priority.

The government authorities should promote community-friendly policies aimed at supporting community radio broadcast media and focus on expanding the radio media map to the communities across two-thirds of Pakistan, which currently do not have local radio stations, and therefore no platform to articulate their interests to the authorities and amongst themselves.

Background to the National Radio Conference “Building a Better Broadcast Sector in Pakistan”

Are FM radio stations in Pakistan becoming a voice of local communities or not? Why has radio in Pakistan not captured popular imagination as a source of information like TV and newspapers? These questions were among a host of issues that were tackled in a two-day national conference of Pakistan’s leading FM stations held in Islamabad on Dec 8-9, 2011.

Intermedia Pakistan, a Pakistani media development organization that has been providing advocacy, research and training resources for the radio sector since 2005, conducted the conference titled “FM Radio as a Voice for Local Communities – Building a Better Broadcast Sector in Pakistan”.

The conference brought together the ownership and senior management of over 40 FM radio stations from all over Pakistan to take stock of 10 years of independent broadcasting in Pakistan and celebrate its successes and discuss the challenges and to try and map what the trends will be over the next 10 years.

The conference, supported by Europe-based International Media Support (IMS), also aimed to provide opportunities for all key broadcast stakeholders such as Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), community groups, government authorities and radio associations, etc., to promote networking and collaboration opportunities.

It has almost been 10 years since the broadcast sector regulator Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was established to promote independent broadcast media in the country. “This milestone calls for a review of the successes and challenges of the dozens of FM radio stations in Pakistan and how they have become to be an every-day reality in both the urban and rural areas in large parts of the country and are positively contributing to a sense of community,” Adnan Rehmat, the Executive Director of Intermedia Pakistan said at the conference.

The first day of the conference (Dec 8, 2011) focused on evaluation and reviewing the successes and shortcoming of the radio sector in Pakistan. Separate sessions included discussions on perspectives from abroad on the role of radio in community service; the role of PEMRA in sectoral development; ten years of FM radio in Pakistan; the future of radio in Pakistan; community service through radio – the role of the regulator and the radio stations; collaboration for community – how can communities and radio stations forge partnerships; and commitment to community – the way forward for radio stations.

The second day of the conference (Dec 9, 2011) focused on discussing ways and mechanisms of building networking among Pakistan’s FM stations including discussions on why radio has still to emerge as a popular public information medium in the country; models of sectoral representation for radio and association building; mapping possibilities and opportunities for professional networking of radio stations; future plan of action for Pakistan’s radio sector and designing a charter of collaboration.

Intermedia

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Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is an independent media research, documentation and training centre working to promote and defend freedom of press.. Follow us on Twitter / Facebook.

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