Pro-people Media (English)
Alternative Media for Rural People
Men have achieved unimaginable development
in the field of information technology (IT) during last two decades
and unpredictable things are going to happen in the coming century
in the field of IT. Any body with a telephone and a computer can
have access to every kind of information of the world. Actually
the 21st century is going to be the century of information.
But what is there in the IT stuff for the vast majority of the people
who live in the Third World and specially in the remote and rural
In the rural areas of Nepal, schoolbooks
of the children, labels and wrapper on the commercial goods and
posters and pamphlets during election are the only printed paper
the people usually see. If knowledge is the fuel for change, i.
e. development, where is that fuel for the majority of the people
During last four decades the world has
spent a lot of resources for the development of the people, the
community and the nations. But the development goals have not been
achieved and they are changing continuously. Now it has become quite
clear that whatever the target of the development, it cannot be
achieved without empowering the people. There is no doubt that knowledge
or information is the key to empowerment and communication is the
vehicle to transfer that knowledge.
Situation of Mass Communication
After the reinstallation of multi party
system in Nepal in 1990 the constitution has guaranteed various
democratic rights to the people. Among those fundamental rights
the right to information and freedom of expression are significant
rights. But there is no practical means to utilize those rights
on the part of underprivileged people, most of whom live in rural
Although Nepal has experienced an information
explosion since the advent of democracy, its impact has barely been
felt outside the capital city, Kathmandu and some of the big towns.
Most of the rural areas have only limited access to books, newspapers
and the electronic media. As a result people are deprived of basic
information such as health, sanitation, environmental conservation,
population, control of AIDS, new technologies, income generation
activities and other important issues which are quite important
for the development of the people. Lack of information also restricts
the opportunity for rural people to play an active role in democracy.
In the hill areas the traditional village-criers
are still there. Wells and waterspouts were the regular meeting
places of most of the villagers. But after the villages got tap
water through polythene pipes their regular meetings were hindered.
There is no easy way to know what is happening in the local neighborhood.
Problems of Mass Media
Mass media in Nepal have not been able
to play the role of changing the life and mind of the people it
should have done. It has not been considered as an effective agent
of development. Most of the newspapers seem to be mouthpiece of
political parties. The government controlled electronic and print
media and the newspapers published from private sector also are
targeted to the elite urban readers. There is very little for the
rural and new literate people. Broadcasting fails to reach the majority
of the rural poor. Massive illiteracy prevents the print media from
reaching the people. Limited transport facilities and adverse geographical
conditions restrict the free flow of newspaper and radio transmission.
Linguistic and ethnic diversity also limits the usefulness of centralized
One of the reasons why people are poor
is because they lack access to information about ideas and technologies,
which could improve their lives. Dissemination of information is
the greatest challenge for the development of the rural poor. To
meet this challenge many efforts have been started in Nepal during
last five years.
Efforts to meet the challenge
To meet this challenge a local NGO, Rural
Development Palpa (RDP) started a weekly rural newspaper Gaunle
Deurali in 1993 with the financial support from The Asia Foundation
for equipment and operational costs for three years.
Today RDP's eight professional staff
working together with community-based contributors, mostly barefoot
journalists, produce the newspaper, which is distributed in more
than 25 districts in Nepal. It has a modern computer-equipped newspaper
office and offset printing press in the remote hilly district of
Palpa, 300 km. west of Kathmandu.
Gaunle Deurali is produced for and by
the rural people of the Middle Hills of Nepal, a unique geographical
area sharing many common problems and challenges along with rich
cultural tradition and ethnic diversity. A special focus point for
Deurali is new literate adult readers living in remote rural areas,
who often have no access to reading material after they learn to
read in non-formal education classes.
Deurali aims to dignify rural life and
empower rural people through rural media, by fulfilling the following
- To give a voice to rural people and a forum for the exchange
of their information, opinions and experiences.
- To encourage rural new literate people to continue reading.
- To inform rural people about development activities in rural
- To expose rural problems to government organizations and NGOs.
- To strengthen democracy in rural areas.
- To support the introduction of income-generation activities.
- To inform rural people about appropriate modern technologies.
- To inform rural people and exchange their ideas about improving
- To raise awareness about environment conservation and sustainable
- To expose rural people who are providing community service.
- To support the development activities of women and unprivileged
Empowerment in Action
RDP's experience with rural newspaper
has proven that when the problems and feelings of disregarded voiceless
rural people are printed they feel empowered. They realize they
have a place in their own community and the democratic decision-making
process. The feeling of self-respect and self-confidence is increased.
The result is even greater when rural
people can produce their own newspaper articles, respond to others
views, and participate in the production of the newspaper, with
the support of training courses and other activities such as Barefoot
RDP felt the need of a new breed of journalists
who are dedicated to change the fate of rural people and give voice
to the underprivileged. Deurali needs journalists in rural and remote
areas who can report the down to earth, the real people, their problems
and their aspirations. Development workers, schoolteachers, students,
farmers, health workers, housewives, members and staff of Village
Development Committee with a basic knowledge of journalism can be
RDP conducted the first such training
in June-July, 1992. The performance of the first batch inspired
RDP for producing more barefoot journalists. And the process of
producing barefoot journalists through training programmes is continuing.
Community Broadcasting and Community
Audio Tower (CAT)
Since Nepal has a very low literacy rate
print media cannot play vital role in educating the people in comparison
to broadcast media. Sale and distribution of printed material has
limited scope due to the difficulty in transportation and low purchasing
power. Therefore community broadcasting can be very useful in the
remote areas of the country. In this situation Community Audio Tower
and Community Broadcasting Programmes, if planned, managed and handled
properly, can server the purpose of empowering and changing
the rural people.
In Nepal there is provision to give license
for the private radio station. Most of the development-oriented
organizations and some of the Village Development Committee have
visualized the community broadcasting as an effective media for
the empowerment/ development of the mass. In this respect an audio
tower can be a pre broadcasting exercise in the rural areas. Such
systems have been successfully conducted in other counters such
as Philippines, Shrilanka, Thailand etc. for the development of
the community. In some villages of Nepal too such audio towers are
under operation. They are totally controlled and managed by the
Objectives of the Community Broadcasting
Community Broadcasting is not a commercial
broadcasting. It encourages a high level of participation of all
the sectors in a community in the ownership, operation and control
of the media. The target is the community as a whole including all
the minorities, underprivileged class of the people. It is run/
handled not by the professional journalists, but by rural based
barefoot journalists, farmers, mid level technicians based in the
village, local representatives of the people, village development
workers, local artists, school teachers and students most of whom
are volunteers. They decide what to broadcast how to produce program
and they make rules and regulations to operate it efficiently.
Main features of the program:
- Local views/debate on issues of local and national interests.
- Interviews of Local and Outsider experts
- Highlighting local talent, skill, technology and expertise.
- Local advertisements, which can generate small income and make
the station sustainable.
- Any information which help to promote the life, dignity and
happiness of the community.
- Main focus on health, nutrition, sanitation, drinking water,
conservation of natural resources, prevention of AIDS and other
diseases, family planning, human rights, democracy etc.
Because Radio Broadcasting is the cheapest
form of Mass communication it lends itself to 'grass roots' use
by communities of interest - geographical, cultural, political.
Its potential is to be run by and for local communities, special
interests and followings.
Madi Valley Community Broadcasting
It was started as a pre-broadcasting
exercise for the real broadcasting in the future.
Seven sub committees and one main committee
operate it. All the members of the committee are women. The are
from different classes, castes and ethnic groups. The result has
been enthusiastic. Similar Programmes are being run in other districts
too and the number is increasing.
Support from MS Nepal
MS Nepal, a Danish organization for international
cooperation started supporting RDP in 1994. The support has been
in many fields, but its main target is to increase the quality of
the content of the newspaper through journalism training. Other
activities of the support targeted to increase the circulation and
strengthen the organization through staff development. Several initiatives
have come out of this support including different kinds of training
such as barefoot journalism training, specific journalism training
for women, basic photography training for rural people and graphic
design training, book keeping training, repro camera operation training
for the staff. RDP's management assignment, readership survey and
trial subscription of Deurali for MS cooperation partners are some
other forms of cooperation with MS Nepal.
Madi Valley Community Broadcasting Project
is a significant support from MS Nepal. MS Nepal has supported RDP
with an expert on radio journalism. It has also provided funds for
feasibility study of FM Broadcasting in the valley and equipment
and training for the project.
Similar efforts for alternative rural
media are started in some other districts too. After the successful
operation of Deurali The Asia Foundation supported to publish another
rural newspaper Gaun Ghar in Dang district. The World View Nepal
has been conducting training for audio towers. Recently Nepal Press
Institute also has undertaken training programmes in broadcasting.
But the number of such initiatives is quite insufficient in view
of the great mass of the rural people. The world which has been
divided into 'Haves and Have-nots' are again being divided rapidly
into Information-rich and Information-poor. There is a big challenge
for new communication technology to fill this gap and alternative
media can help to face this challenge.
(Published in TODAY National and International
Magazine, A Special Issue on Nepal & Denmark Relations; Vol.
16, No. 2 Apr/May 1998)