The three-day conference with the theme “If Community Media is the Answer, What is the Question?” was held in honour of the Late Alfred Esimatemi Opubor, first Nigerian Professor of Mass Communication, to commemorate his 75th (Posthumous) birthday.
The event was organised by the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, African Languages Technology Initiative, Institute for Media and Society and the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition, with support from UNICEF, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Bifocals Communications. It was attended by eminent scholars in the field of communication studies, representatives of civil society groups, grassroots communities, the media, among others, drawn from Nigeria, other African countries, Europe and the United States of America.
The conference was opened by the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. I. F. Adewole, represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. I. A Olayinka.
The keynote address titled “Trail Blazers, Legends and the Making of a Discipline: Alfred Opubor and Communication Studies in Africa” was delivered by Prof. Cecil Blake of the University of Pittsburgh, USA. Subsequently, other papers were presented on various areas of community media by both scholars and practitioners, in plenary and syndicate sessions.
Participants made the following observations:
(1) A proper understanding of Community media and their associated processes is required for overcoming the problems of proper integration of rural communities into the processes of national development.
(2) Community Radio and other community communication systems are crucial to strengthening cultural identities and building communities, without which genuine development cannot be realised, much less sustained.
(3) Community Radio and other community communication systems are key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially the immense challenges of Child and Maternal Mortality and Climate Change Adaptation.
(4) A society that hears its people is a society that will transform itself. For sustainable development to occur on the scale that is required for the success of the transformation agenda of the present administration, there has to occur the “massification” of communication, which can only happen through community media
(5) Community media will reach sections of the country that are not covered by the mainstream government and commercial media. This will help address some of the security challenges in our polity.
(6) Upcoming media scholars are not adequately equipped with contextual communication research methodologies that are needed for understanding community media issues.
(7) The Federal government, through a Presidential pronouncement in October 2010, gave the go-ahead for the licensing of community radio in Nigeria. It is of deep concern to stakeholders and general public that after more than one year, the government directive has not been implemented.
In view of the foregoing, the Conference made the following resolutions:
(1) Scholars and policymakers should adopt strong African ethical principles to think deeply and thereby understand how we can use communication to overcome the problems in rural communities.
(2) Rural and other grassroots communities should continue their current efforts in establishment of community radio stations. In the process, they should pool human and material resources together as part of their strategies for good governance and sustainability of the upcoming radio stations.
(3) Communication research by the academia should be more rigorous as a way of helping to better understand the problems of effective communication with and within our rural and grassroots communities.
(4) Communication scholars should embark on a structured and sustained mentoring programme in contextual communication research methodologies so that upcoming scholars can effectively engage these methodologies and use them to achieve much better understanding of community communication needs.
(5) The Federal government should ensure that Mr. President’s directive on the issuance of Community Radio licences is implemented without any further delay.
(6) The Conference organizers in collaboration with the African Council of Communication Education (ACCE) and other stakeholder organizations should:
a. Establish an online archive of research reports and other types of literatures where scholars
and other practitioners can access materials for their work.
b. Endow a Professor Alfred Opubor chair for research and teaching of community
communication in Nigeria.
(7) Existing mainstream media should develop and implement strategies for improved coverage of rural and grassroots communities.
(8) Stakeholders should ensure that the advocacy for Community radio and other community media take advantage of new technologies and ensure that there is appropriate capacity building in the various communities to fully exploit these new technologies.
(9) Adequate funding should be made available for research into community communication issues. In this connection, academic institutions, government agencies such as Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETF), Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PTDF); donor organizations and other development partners should make funding support accessible to community communication researchers in all parts of the country.
Issued at the Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, this 29th day of March, 2012.