Building the Capacity of Community Radio Broadcasting Services to Cover Local Socio-Political Issues
The preliminary survey carried out by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression revealed poor coverage of social and political issues by the regional media in Armenia. Local politics were largely neglected by the national media in the past and the voters from local communities had to rely on local and community media. Meanwhile, self-government elections are to take place in Armenia in September 2008 - July 2009. TV coverage of elections in the regions rarely goes beyond political endorsements of pro-government candidates. Regional newspapers are all struggling with miserably low circulations, unable to cover production costs, and often seek governmental funding or support of government-connected businessmen, thus losing their editorial independence. Regional radio companies are the most financially independent media: they don't need considerable initial investments to start up and stay a popular means of advertisement because of low cost and wide coverage. Regional radio broadcasting services offer entertainment programmes and rarely cover political issues. Poor sociopolitical content of local radio programmes is mostly due to the lack of skilled professionals caused by few possibilities of training in the regions. The Armenian Constitution was amended in November 2005, significantly strengthening local selfgovernment in the country. However, the media audience in the regions has little access to independent and objective information on political and social development of local communities, which is essential for ensuring truly open and democratic development of the society. In this regard, relevant training for radio professionals working for community radio companies is a matter of urgent importance. The project aims to enable 10 regional radio professionals to acquire the necessary skills for producing socio-political radio programmes for local communities as a result of trainings and workshops. Also, a series of radio programmes covering local political and social content in the regions of Armenia will be launched as part of the hands-on trainings/workshops. The local communities will have enhanced access to high quality, independent and objective information.