Community Media and Its Role in Reform and Awareness of Society

Camera at a Media Conference

The media plays a crucial role in all countries and local and global societies, mobilizing global public opinion with news and information, enhancing people’s cultural awareness, education, and understanding, thus influencing their interaction with the surrounding society. Given the importance of these media, people of all ages have become interested in them, dedicating time to follow them, especially programs that align with individual preferences.

Media, however, has both positive and negative aspects. Positively, it contributes to society’s awareness of global events, making the world a small village through live coverage. Negatively, it can have a detrimental role, such as in sensationalist journalism, fueling sectarian tensions and serving political interests to the detriment of others, affecting the overall situation within a country and region.

In this article, we will discuss the role of social media in raising awareness and reforming civil society in Syria.

The best definition of social media is any form of media created and controlled by the community, whether a geographical or interest-based community.

We need specialized media studies to explore the new facet of media (social) and its effectiveness in influencing and convincing.

The challenges facing social media in some developing countries like Syria require further studies to understand the reasons for the interest or neglect of deep and serious content. This involves identifying the impact of this type of media on remote and local communities, such as villages, towns, cities, provinces, and regions.

The main issue confronting social media is funding, which hampers its growth. The future of social media is tied to liberating its funding potential and advertising.

Social media benefits from civil states and civil society institutions, particularly community radios. These community radios, which address the problems and concerns of citizens in local communities, can compete with private entertainment-oriented radios through advertisements.

Social media is the alternative “popular media” to private (commercial) and official (governmental) media. It enjoys freedom, independence, and credibility, being close to the people living in a specific geographic area.

Due to its voluntary nature, social media is unstable without continuous institutional funding. Thus, financial liberation and allowing a certain percentage of commercial advertising during specific times and seasons can sustain community media.

Community-linked social media, such as those associated with specific regions like provinces, differs from social networking, which involves user-managed content on a broader level. These platforms become meeting places, “popular cafes,” similar to “blogs” or personal electronic wall journalism online.

Unfortunately, community media in our country does not fully play its role in changing attitudes and developing traditions to align with progress at the national, regional, and international levels. This is due to several reasons, including high illiteracy rates among citizens and a lack of proper understanding of the importance of social media, its role in policy and system change.

This type of media now contributes to shaping, modifying, and generalizing societal value systems, promoting existing values such as tolerance, patriotism, rejecting violence, terrorism, and extremism, spreading democratic and social justice values, respecting human rights and women’s rights, equality, integrity, and combating corruption.

It seems that we need a long time to keep up with developments in community media. Whether we can raise public awareness to understand the role and importance of community media remains a question. It requires conducting studies and developing plans and strategies to enhance community media, keeping pace with other societies.

 

**Nature of Community Media**

After all these years and activities, the concept of community media remains ambiguous, unclear, and perhaps this confusion is due more to political reasons than to lack of knowledge or misunderstanding.

So, what is community media? What is the difference between it and other media outlets? Is it limited to radio only? What is the reality of this media? Do we really have community media?

Many definitions available on the Internet, on official websites such as the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) or unofficial ones like Wikipedia, indicate that this type of media emerged in the 1960s. Activists from ethnic minorities noticed the neglect of their issues and cultures, especially their music, by mainstream media. They started creating local radio stations to broadcast this music, and these radios evolved in content, management, and funding, leading to what is now known as “community radios.”

So, without delving into academic definitions, community media can be described as a media outlet primarily concerned with the issues of a specific region, ethnic group, or category such as women or youth. It does not conform to the “classic” form of media prevalent globally.

It’s essential for this media to go beyond regional or category concerns to be considered community media. For those involved and interested in this media, certain conditions must be met for a media outlet to be recognized as community media.

The origin of this media was in radio, and the appearance of a union for it made it seem confined to radio. However, community media can use any visual, auditory, or readable means. For a media outlet to be community media, several conditions must be met. Firstly, ownership and funding should be from the local community or the concerned category, managed by democratically elected administrations. This type of media evolves with the democratization of societies, reflecting diversity and allowing minorities to have balanced media coverage.

It has become common globally for community media to be managed by civil society organizations. For instance, a women’s union may have a media outlet focusing on women’s issues. Usually, these outlets are funded by local communities and concerned groups, and they should not be profit-oriented, distinguishing them from commercial media or even independent media, which may have a profit motive.

Secondly, the content of community media should be dedicated to serving the local community or the concerned group, addressing their issues, and produced by individuals from these communities, often on a voluntary basis.

In summary, community media originates from a local community or an interest group, involving democratic management, funding, content production, and ultimately serving these communities. In this sense, community media is entirely different from the concept of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and differs from public and governmental media that focus on general content at the national, regional, or global level. It also differs from private media, often profit-oriented and not necessarily aimed at serving communities but rather presenting general news.

It’s worth noting that community media plays a significant role in creating a range of applications presented through visual, auditory, or written media. These applications are tailored to specific societal categories, helping in developmental programs that present information in a language aiming to attract a specific audience. Additionally, community media has helped allocate some educational or entertainment programs to develop various mental abilities that aid in communication skills. Moreover, it has facilitated the presentation of talent shows, scientific or journalistic, based on how to identify large segments of the qualitative audience. This has also allowed it to articulate various principles or values, whether economic, political, cultural, religious, or Islamic, defining communities in all aspects encompassed by all media arts.

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