Role of the media in development communication
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CTA. 2005. Role of the media in development communication. Rural Radio Resource Pack 2005. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57319
Development communicators, particularly of government information services, need to work more closely with private media to get their messages out.
Role of the media in development communication Suggested introduction: Reading the newspaper, what do you look for? Local or international news? Sports reports? Crimes and accidents? We all have our interests, and for many of us, issues like health and diet may come fairly low down our list. For government ministries responsible for health, food and agriculture, this can make us a difficult audience to reach. They may have important information, but how to communicate it effectively? They may even struggle to get private media people, whether print, radio or TV, to take an interest, and the information never reaches the majority of people, including perhaps those who need it most. At a recent conference in Belize, communication professionals from across the Caribbean were invited to discuss how information on food and nutrition could be better communicated in the region. Several of the participants were asked to comment on how the private media, government departments and others involved in development communication could work more closely to achieve better coverage for these important issues. To begin this report, Susanna Thorp spoke to Wesley Gibbings, a journalist and President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, and asked him if he knew of any good examples where co-operation between these different groups had taken place. IN: ?I think that the HIV/AIDS campaign..? OUT: ? want to come back a second time.? DUR?N 6?39? Back announcement: Merlyn Severin from St Lucia ending that report on how government information officers and private media bodies need to improve their relations, to improve the dissemination of development information in the region. Transcript Gibbings I think that the HIV/AIDS campaign in the region is a shining example of collaboration between development communicators and journalists and media people in the region. There have been very positive effects from this. Only recently in Trinidad and Tobago researchers there were concluding that the instances in which people were actually dying as a result of the HIV virus was on the decline. And that was as a direct result of the fact that people are now more aware that the medical regimes that are available to people free of charge are being taken by people and that they are observing all the requirements of taking those anti-retrovirals. Thorp So in the same way perhaps similar things could be achieved with messages to do with obesity and diabetes, some of the things that we were talking about this morning? Gibbings Yes I think that what needs to happen is that these issues need to be packaged and presented in such a manner as to suggest a sense of urgency. Too often these issues are dismissed as peripheral and of only marginal value in the average daily scheme of things. I think that what needs to happen is that the development communicators need to package the information that is available and present to the media people and the community at large the fact that these are very serious and urgent issues that need attention. Thorp But don?t you think that one of the problems too is that development people themselves don?t understand how best to communicate and to package that information? Gibbings That is quite right and I think that a process of learning needs to take place and I think it can happen simultaneously. That the development communicators need to sit with the journalists and to learn from each other. I think that among the media environment in the region there are journalists who are genuinely concerned about development who want to see the people of their countries live better lives, live longer and healthier lives. And there are development communicators who I believe have the skills to pass on to the journalists a basic understanding of the nature of the problems that we confront. So I am very optimistic that it can happen. Thorp So the future is to build bridges between the two? Gibbings Certainly and I think that the first step needs to be taken by the development agencies that operate throughout the region at national, regional and international levels. I think that they need to approach the media environment with far more openness. They need to trust them more. They need to appreciate the professional values that guide the work of journalists much more. NARR So the private media is one important way that information can be delivered. But what role should government information services have? Selwyn King, Public Relations and Communications Manager of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) offers his view. King The media is one channel, and when we take a closer look, each member state has a Government Information Service, GIS, and their role is essentially to bring out issues on development, issues that affect the lifestyle of the population. That includes as well food security and nutrition. So that role of the Government Information Service is to produce programmes, and those programmes can be delivered to the radio and television stations, which can then be aired. Thorp Presumably an important part of their role is to understand the information that people want? King They need to understand the information and who is best to understand the information than the people who are working in the Government Information Service system? Because they have access to the permanent secretaries, they have access to the ministers of government, they have access to the technicians within the government machinery. It is just a matter of taking the time out, develop programmes of what needs to be addressed in terms of education, public awareness, campaigning. Thorp So we are not just talking about policy issues, but we are talking about?? King We are talking in terms of food and nutrition security, we are talking in terms of breast cancer, we are talking in terms of diets, we are talking in terms of healthy lifestyle. There is a whole range of issues that have not been touched. And if the leadership of the GIS recognise what is their role and the role of the GIS system, they would be better repositioning themselves to deliver these programmes to the media who are basically limited in terms of human resources, to air the programmes. So the dynamics of the environment that we live in today we have to be realistic, we have to be on top of issues. Government policies, government projects, how do they all integrate in terms of development of the society? It is a matter of participation and the Government Information Service has a significant role to play. NARR For Merlyn Severin, Chief Nutritionist within the Health Ministry in St Lucia, improving the amount of development information being published and broadcast by private newspapers, radio and TV stations depends on creating closer, more trusting relations between the public and private sectors. For the staff of government ministries, this may mean having a less critical attitude to the media. Severin We always put down the media and say that media is not supportive, they like sensational stories. In my opinion one of the ways we can approach it is changing the way we deal with the media. When we as nutritionists/dieticians, nutrition people, call on the media people to give us some kind of highlight, we call on the phone, they do not even know us, then they come on. Do we ever get back to them and say ?Thank you, you did a good job?? Do we ever say to them, ?Ok, as a result of your piece, your news piece, I was able to find out five more diabetics; they heard it and they were convinced?? You must give him what he deserves, give him ?flowers?, let him feel that he made an impact. We are just going to call him one day, he does not know our office, he does not know us, and we tell him the story about what is in a mango? But if he knows that when I did that, the Ministry of Health picked up 14 more diabetics in a 3 month period I don?t see any reason why he would not want to come back a second time. End of track