Community media is described by Ellie Rennie (2006), in a broad sense, as “community communication”. Fundamentally, it is difficult to define the term absolutely because it can take many forms, be applied by so many different groups of people, and be directed at such a wide range of topics. However, the premise that community media is a facilitating tool for discussion and engagement of common citizens has some inherent implications. An important implication is that community media are for the most part independent of commercial and mainstream market-driven media. This, in turn, allows different community media models to offer a more open editorial policy or a more refined approach that is still faithful to the encouragement of community participation. The key characteristics of community media convey a clearer understanding of its definition, as well as its depth and dimension in terms of how it takes shape in the civic landscape (Rennie, 2006: 208).
The South African definition is that community media is a geographic community or a community of interests. So, ideally, community media are produced, managed, and owned by, for and about the community they serve, which may be a geographic community or a community of interest. “Community media is a two-way process, in which communities participate as planners, producers and interpreters and is the means of expression for the community rather than for the community.”
It seems easier to postulate an ideal definition of community media than to extrapolate a definition from the actual community media initiatives that exist on the ground (McQuail, 1994). The media used are different and, as is the case with video, sometimes the media used poses challenges to the notion of community participation. Ownership and management patterns are diverse, although they can be broadly defined as non-governmental and non-corporate. The levels of community participation are equally diverse. And the goals are very specifically different, although again, generally the goals are all for some aspect of community development.
The concept of community media implies that for communities to be heard at the national level, they must first be heard at the grassroots level. The potential to communicate and receive communication is a social good, which must be fair, universal and strictly equal. Curran and Gurevitch (1991) claim that the full concept of citizenship presupposes an informed participating body of citizens, in general, if we assume that there is a right to communicate, then it implies an equal individual claim to listen and be heard. Similarly, Freire (1990) observes that the fewer people are consulted, the less democracy a nation has.
Community broadcasting seeks to foster debate, reach consensus, and build solidarity to promote and protect human rights and achieve sustainable development, including peace and reconciliation (McQuail, 1994). Community broadcasting is about both accessing and disseminating information. It acts as a medium for the flow of information to and from communities, on the one hand, and national and international levels, on the other (McQuail, 1994). It provides access to the necessary external information, as well as the promotion of topics of interest, with relevant levels of policy formulation informed by experiences at the community level and the solutions generated there. In a broader sense, community broadcasting enables greater participation of communities in national and international affairs. It has a dual role: that of a mirror (which reflects the community on itself) and that of a window (which allows the outside world to look at its experiences).
Fraser, Colin, and Sonica Restrepo Estrada (2001) argue that community media provides a vital alternative to the profit-oriented agenda of corporate media. They are driven by social goals rather than private profit motives. Community media empowers people instead of treating them as passive consumers and nurtures local knowledge instead of replacing it with standard solutions. Ownership and control of community media are ingrained and accountable to the communities they serve, and are appropriate approaches to development (Buckley, 2000). The nature and purpose of community media initiatives should be the most important determinants. Resource gaps of any kind can be addressed through alternative strategies. Steve Buckley (2000) observes that democracy and communication are inextricably linked, so much so that the existence or not of certain forms of communication can be a measure of the limits to which democracy itself has developed or is retained.
Curran and Gurevitch (1991) state that the nature of community media is participatory and its purpose is development, “processes of public and private dialogue through which people define who they are, what they want, and how they can achieve it. Participation This is how the processes of production, management and ownership of the media are both a means to an end and an end in themselves. The processes of production, management and ownership of the media are themselves empowering, instilling analytical skills criticism and confidence in the interpretations reached and the solutions found Therefore, the chosen medium must be one that allows, improves and sustains community participation.
From the above considerations, it follows that the choice of media to be used in a local community is necessarily specific to that community. What works in one community may not work in another (Lesame, 2005). For example, gender and age are factors that need to be taken into account when discussing sexuality, but how they are taken into account differs between communities. Literacy levels, access to radio receivers in the general community, familiarity with symbolism and other visual devices used in audiovisual media are other considerations. The choice of theater, local language newspapers, radio or video, or any combination thereof, depends and should depend on internal and external factors (Bessette, 2004).
Internally, the choice should address the development goals of the community in question and build on the forms of communication that already exist, especially when the community in question has a history or tradition of educational music and dance. And externally, the election must guarantee the ease and effectiveness of the impact on the national and international actors with whom the community wishes to speak. For example, video is a powerful medium for raising awareness of human rights concerns, but it is also a medium that does not necessarily or typically expose the complexities of a situation and therefore can lead to simplistic interventions for resolution. . Community-based participatory planning for choosing a medium must take into account these internal and external considerations.