Interview with Alfonso Gumucio Dagron

November 24, 2010

00:21 I’m Alfonso Gumucio, I’ve been working with community media for the last 30 years, supporting radio stations in my country Bolivia, basically miners radio stations, but also peasant radio stations. We’ve been doing a lot of training when I was the director of SIMCA, which is a local NGO, and a personal adventure also, which I created in 1984 when I returned from exile. Then I’ve been doing the same type of work all over the world with different organizations, Asia, Africa, Latin America. I actually don’t live in Bolivia now, although I go there very often, but I’ve been doing the same thing for the last 30 years.

01:12 I always start mentioning what happened in Bolivia, because is one of the most significant experiences in community radio and community media in fact, because in Bolivia, the workers from the mines started in 1947, 48 created the first community station. It was a union community station, their union created it, but what is significant about this experience is several reasons. First is that this is a community radio station that is created, owned, managed, financed by the workers themselves. You hear a lot about community radio now a days, but many of them are NGO projects, university projects, sometimes even from the government, like in Bolivia right now, they are creating community radio stations from the government. So in 1948-47 to have these radio stations that started building up on the basis of the strength of the movement of the miners is really amazing. An they lasted for 30 years with a lot of strength. Now a days only a few remain because the social and economic panorama has changed. But the other thing that was important in those community radio stations is that they had influence nationally. They did not only have influence in the community. In times of political crisis especially, they would have enormous influence.

2:57 And I will give some examples, but first I would like to tell you something about the creation of a community radio station, which I believe is very important. First, they decided that they needed to communicate simple things in the community. For example, they didn’t have a post office, they didn’t have that kind of service, so if letters came to the mines, they would just say on the microphone, mrs such and such you have a letter, come and pick it up. Or maybe, if there was a meeting happening the next week for the Comites de amas the casa, the committee of house wives, which was, in spite of that kind of name, it was a very revolutionary organization. They would call for the meetings through the radio station. So that was already a service kind of thing that was important for them.

3:43 then, if there was a problem on the pulperia, the pulperia is the store in the mine company where workers would pick up the vegetables, or whatever, if there was something missing, if there was no meat for two weeks, women would complaint through the radio station. So it built the necessity to communicate helped the need to expand the radio station. At some time for example, they were having union meetings of five hours, and they were transmitted live through the radio station, and people were not bored. They were hearing it, because important decisions were taking on their lives. And in times of crisis, this is the other thing, when for example in 1980, and theirs is writing about this, the military took all the journals, all the radio stations, all the television stations in the main cities of Bolivia, the only radio stations that were transmitting were the miner’s stations.

4:45 So even the foreign correspondence that were in Lima or Santiago or Buenos Aires who were trying to learn something of what was happening in Bolivia during these two weeks when there was no information at all coming from Bolivia, they would listen to the radio stations from the miners, and that was very important. And some dramatic moments happened there because the Army knew this was happening, and the kind of advanced towards the mines to stop the miner’s radio stations, and the miner’s children and their wives surrounded the radio stations, grabbed their hands and said, you will not take this radio station. And I have a recording from those days, and is so dramatic. You can hear the broadcasters at the radio stations saying “you can hear the shots, the army is getting closer and closer. Maybe in the next 15 o 20 minutes we will stop airing, but don’t worry, there will be another radio station from this network that will pick up the signal. And that is exactly what happened. When one radio station stopped broadcasting another radio station from the network continued broadcasting, and this lasted for about three weeks until all of them were shot down.

6:04 I believe even those who work in communication don’t know how to distinguish things. And this is a problem of language, and I think conceptual language in English and Spanish, People say in Spanish for example they say “medios de comunicacion”. And they are referring to commercial mass media. For me, that is information media, not communication media, because communication is two ways. There is a simple difference between information and communication. Information is one way, communication is two ways.

7:07 Commercial media is not communication. That’s information. But if you talk about community media where people can participate, there is that dialogue between the community media and the people, and the people make decisions, that’s communication. First of all, when I present these things, I always say please make the difference between information and communication. Don’t say that mass media is communication. Is a different thing. Second thing I always make the difference, and I’m writing about this, not only in “Making Waves”, but in the papers, and in the introduction of a book that just came out “Communication and Social Change”, I say journalists and communicators are not the same thing. What happened about 20 years ago is that the old schools of journalism changed their name, and suddenly they were school of social communication.

8:02 But they didn’t change the content. They only address to media. The only thing they know is radio, television, print, and they added up advertising, marketing and some other things. But basically they are training people to go and work in media. They don’t have any idea about development and social change. Very few deal with or have classes that deal with development and social change. But basically they are not interested in that. So when I was writing “Making Waves” and I visited Africa, Asia and Latin America, I also visited some universities to ask which of them had some kind of specialization, or special department on communication for development and social change, and I found that there is less than 20 in the world. On the other hand you have more than 2,000 schools of journalism, so called social communication.

9:00 Is a very dramatic thing because when you work as I did in the UN for example, or bi-laterals, in the field, in communities, trying to put up programs of development for social change, you realize that when you have colleagues who know how to do communication at those levels, have a strategic thinking on communication, you don’t find them. You find journalists. I was in Nigeria with UNICEF for four years, and I had a good budget to do great and interesting things, but when I wanted to have someone to really work strategically with communication at a community level, I would just have CVs from journalists who said, oh yes, if I had to do this, I would do a campaign, and do articles and spots, and this and that. That’s was not what I wanted. I wanted dialogue with the community. So the main difference between journalists and communicators is that communicators first have this strategic view on communication and development. They know that communication is a process.

10:01 Whereas journalists see communication as messages a video, and article, whatever. There’s very few universities training people to be communicators. And that’s very sad because when you are on the side of the development organizations you say, but where do I find these communicators, and there are none. So this is a very important thing. So this is something I usually say when I want to distinguish between information and communication. Communication is dialogue, and then we have a lot of literature on that. If we look at Paulo Freire, basically in Latin America, that already in the 60s and 70s are saying, people have to be involved, people have to make their own decisions on their future, you cannot just impose on them projects, programs, and a type of communication. They can decide what type of communication they want.

10:59 (On military terms) It has to do with the studies on communication. As you may know, maybe the first people that started talking about communication for development, or at least those that were first know, because we’re now discovering that many other people in other regions wrote already about these issues, but we usually say, Sram Learner and Rogers… created some of these concepts, and you begin to see that they are using the terms, they are using campaign, and they are using target, those kind of words, which are military words. And why? Because during the Second World War most of these people were working for the government, in terms of building the propaganda for the war. Or they studied that propaganda during the war, so they used those terms. And I think we have to get away from that. We have to get away from that because those words are kind of determining the concept s that we are using when we are talking about communication and information.

12:10 And the other thing is that that type of paradigm was built when we talked about commercial things. What happen after the war? The whole industry that was devoted to war, to make tanks, to make bombers, to make those kinds of things had to be reconverted to a civilian time. So instead of making tanks they were making trucks, instead of making bombers, they were making passenger planes, etc., but some of the wording that was military, also became commercial. Like talking about clients, for example, like talking about social issues, like health, and they say and the client should go to the clinic, all those things shock me a lot. And especially in English. I think that in Spanish we have gotten away a little bit from those things. Not enough. You are talking about social marketing. Those things are for me so contradictory, with social change and participation. I think the key of communication for social change is participation, and without participation and ownership, you are not talking about communication.

13:41 We have inherited that also from this big thinkers and writers that we have here in the US. The Schrammers and Rogers. They were maybe well intentioned in terms of ok we want the whole world to develop and things like that, but they had this attitude of let’s tell them what to do. We know, we have the knowledge. They don’t have it, poor them. They don’t have the knowledge so they cannot develop, which is completely false because knowledge is everywhere. It’s not the same knowledge. Is another knowledge. And what we want is an exchange of knowledge. Not an imposition of one knowledge over the next. So what I rejected from that perspective is this arrogance of saying, OK we know how to do it. And that’s where the diffusionism is. In the diffusion theories the thinking is that information/dissemination is the solution. And these theories overlook completely the social issues. I mean peasant don’t produce better because they don’t know how to do it, and they need some advise on technical issues, maybe that will help also, but they don’t have the land. As simple as that.

14:45 the land is owned by big tenants. And is in anything you see. The same thing. So is not just knowledge or information, and also there is a problem here, the distinction between information and knowledge. You don’t transfer knowledge. Many people say, let’s give them more knowledge about something. That’s impossible. Knowledge is what you make of information. You yourself or your community is making something with the information you receive from different sources, and the information you have. That’s knowledge. Knowledge is not transfer. You can transfer information. You can say this is done like this. This is not knowledge. That’s information. So you see, words, unfortunately only help to confuse things. And we have to be very clear when we use words, what we mean by them. And that’s one of the problems.

15:47 When I was working in the UN and UNICEF for 7 years, you know? We have been living in 50 years of frustration in development. So many programs, so much money has been spent. Let’s take aids for example in the last 20 something years. Millions of dollars spent all over the world in aids. But the problem is that because they don’t understand the role of communication, you sit in a way that doesn’t help. For example, usually, in development programs, communication as they understand it, is giving visibility to something. So is not programmed communication. Is not program from the beginning of the program. For example, if you are beginning a program, you should involve communication from the beginning. What is the role of communication in this. And of course the role would be to make people to participate, to make people take ownership of the owner so it can be sustainable.

16:50 Many agencies complain about sustainability. They say, oh, we did what we could, we put a lot of money, we gave them technical assistance, we spent 5 years there and then we went out and that collapsed. And they wonder why it collapsed. Because they never involved the people. They never told people this is your project, your program, your responsibility, you go ahead with it. But this involvement is not when the project or program is already designed, and in place. They have to discuss it with them before doing it. I have many interesting experiences on that, but I think I wrote about one of these in Burkina Faso, I was in Lugu, some small town in Burkina Faso, when I was working there, I went with a government officer, and of course the government officer was not too happy to go there because they don’t like to spend the nights on the field. They say, oh that’s the bush, we don’t want to spend the night in the bush/. I love that because is very interesting. You really have more time to interact with people. So we went there, and the government officer went to sleep very early, and I was talking with people around a fire, and the school teacher, and the leader of the community, three or four people and drinking something some thing they offered me, and in the morning the government officer, we were visiting government projects, the first five year plan, what they had done, and it was a hospital, a maternity hospital, a sports field, and a secondary school. OK?

18:23 And in the evening, during the day they say yeah, yeah, this is great, etc. but during the evening they said, you know something, you are not from here, but we will tell you the truth. Those three things we didn’t need. I said, how is that? You have a secondary school, a maternity, a sports field,…They said, maternity, all our children are born in their houses. We just need some training to the midwives, so they will do the job better. We don’t need a maternity. What about the secondary school. When you came here you could see this building about three kilometers, white, on the side of the road, that’s the school. We only have 10 children in this community to go to secondary school, so is not worth it to have a secondary school for 10 children right now. And the sports field, look at the room we have here, we have enough space, we don’t need walls to have a sports field. So these three things were completely useless for them. So I said, what do you need? If they had asked you first, what is what you had needed? And they said, well you visited this morning, our fields, and you know that we have crops, and we have tomatoes, and we have lettuces, vegetables basic vegetables, and we export them to France, which is a very good income generating for us, the problem is when the plane doesn’t leave, we loose the whole thing, so what we need, is a small factory to can tomatoes and to can vegetables. And that would help us a lot. But they never asked us.

19:56 So that kind of things are so frequent, and that’s a problem of communication because they never consulted, there’s never dialogue. And communication is dialogue above all. But dialogue among equals. And that’s why communities need to have their own means of communication because otherwise there’s no dialogue. You know? Some agencies will tell you, oh yeah, we had dialogue with them, we sent someone DOWN THERE, you know the world they use is down there, and spent a week talking to them, and that was it. But is a dialogue between someone who is invested with all this power, comes from a ministry, or a UN agency, and talks with the community, and says, well, we’re planning to do this, would you like to get this? And they would say yes, is something more that they can add, but if they had there own voices, if they had a radio station, they could discuss, by their own means, they would have a different type of organization because that is the beauty of community media, it strengthens local organization, it democratizes the local organizations, so they can dialogue at the same level with those that come from the outside. A real dialogue is at the same level. There is no dialogue if is not horizontal.

Many people are not going to like what I’m going to say, but I’m very critical of the internet. I use it a lot, and I think that it’s very useful for people in my position that are doing intellectual work, etc. etc., but I wrote that 99% of what is in the web is irrelevant for 99% of the population of the world, at least right now. IT may change, but a peasant in Brasil, or a factory worker in India will find very little things that are of his or her interest right now. And in English. And it’s not true that English is spoken all over the world. People say, in India, very few people speak English in India. The people that speak English in India are 15 million but India has more than 1,000 million people. If you go to Thailand, very few people speak English there. Not even the taxi drivers. So the Internet is predominantly in English, is changing, is good, is changing little by little, but is not so relevant for people. So I wrote and I say is good, and I’ll be there, but we have to make it useful for people. And the way to do it, and I wrote there are five conditions for internet to work: One of the conditions is of course a participatory process, the same thing as with a community radio. In fact what I wrote just comes from my experience with community radio, and I think that with the internet, instead of parashooting computers here or there, they would first learn, fifty years of community radio, they would learn so many things, before they set up a computer thing, coffee, or whatever they call it, telecenter.

23:12 So one of the things is really participation and ownership, if there is no participation and ownership, that’s not going to happen. And what will happen is that those who are better of in the community will benefit. Those who know how to read and write, Those that know English, whatever. The young people, the students will benefit, which is good already, but not the poorest of the poor, they will not benefit from that. Those programs, wherever I have seen them, generally, benefit those who are well off. The second thing, which is very important, is appropriate technology. Many times I’ve seen these externally funded projects, they have five computers that are state of the art, and they are using 10% of the capacity. They are used for e-mailing and chatting. And you don’t need that. We really need to work into the duration of the $100 computers, that kind of thing, which are reasonable. You know that computers don’t last as analogue things do. You had a radio station 20 years ago, It could work 50 years with the same equipment, now that we are into tele-centers, every 5 o 6 years we have to change the computers.

24:24 They are outdated, so is a waste to have things that the community itself will not be able to replace. You can create too much expectations, fund every thing. Some people say, why not, they have to have the same things we have, not because they are poor, and they live in the third world they can’t have a MacIntosh, or the best thing, or whatever, Microsoft word. No, you create that and after five years is gone and they cannot replace it. So appropriate technologies are a very important thing. One other thing, and for me is crucial, is generation of local contents. If they cannot generate local contents, the web is useless, as I said before, and there are a lot of interesting experiences, I mentioned in Making Waves, I mentioned the experience in Shenai, in Southern India, where the Iswaminatan (?) foundation has put computers in several villages, but they also have a center where they produce pages, and websites that are very much in the interest of people. So they are not caring that much about the world wide web, but the local web, which is more important. What fishermen want to know, what are the prices in the market, if there are veterinaries around, things that are of daily use for people that are there.

25:45 The other issue is culturally pertinent, and in their language. So all these four, five, in the 50’s which is very important, but these five conditions are very important to set up these tele-centers. Otherwise they are not sustainable, and they are going to benefit only the well off.

26:25 I haven’t visited the project, I just read about it. It’s a project that started in India, where they put, the Whole in the Wall, that’s the name of it, and they just put a screen and a stick, not a keyboard, and they just left it like that. They didn’t give any training. And young people approached it, and started playing with the stick, and they noticed that if they did that kind of movement, whatever, they would start writing words and things like that. I think as an experiment it was interesting in terms that young people having the ability to discover things, and they have. I mean, someone of thirteen years is much faster at this than I am to discover things. So as an experiment, it was interesting, but of course it doesn’t have any social or development implications.

28:18 Community radio in Colombia as far as I know has lived through different stages and I made a film in 2006 in the Magdalena Medio, which is a conflicting zone, a war zone, terrible things have happened there, there isn’t a family who hasn’t lost someone in the war. And is a war between at least two guerrillas, and the paramilitary, and the army and people are in the middle of that. And while visiting these radio stations and going through the region I noticed that all of those stations that I visited, which are part of AREGMAG, somehow kept their independence. They were very careful. They didn’t take any party. There were working on cultural issues, educational issues, local issues, and that’s how they kept their independence. And one of the persons that I interviewed in the film, which is the founder of one of these radio stations. He narrates how he was kidnapped by the guerilla, and immediately when he was kidnapped, the population of the small place where he lived, Radio Santa Rosa, started sending letters and calling the radio station, calling the guerilla to release him, because he was someone that the people loved, and he was appreciated in the town, and the guerilla chief who finally released him said, you should run for mayor because people like you very much there.

29:51 And this showed me that there is some kind of respect from the guerillas, from the army to these radio stations, because first, they haven’t taken party in the war, second, they are doing social work, and they are appreciated by the local population and they don’t want to get into problems with the population, they don’t want to be unpopular, so they take care of these things. But I agree that in some other countries, you may have some other organizations that are co-opting community media and that’s true. But in some places you also have exactly the opposite. You have for example in Mexico, the indigenous radio stations that were created by the government 20 years ago, but on the way they have become more independent. More taken the ownership by the community, which is good also. So you have many different things. For me, the thing that I’ve been re-thinking these past few years, and this has come also because I’ve visited the new radio stations that are popping out in Asia and Africa, is that, legislation is important. Because in previous years, let’s say in South Africa, when Bush Radio was born, they did it underground, they did it fighting against the upper hey (?), and that happened so many times in Bolivia fighting the Army, and so many other countries. Now a days the fight is different, and we are fighting for legitimacy. We need to be recognized, and we need to be recognized by the law.

31:32 Because we need to be protected in that sense, and very few countries have a legislation protecting and recognizing community radios. Some of them, for example in the legislation in some countries in Africa, just mentions community radio without defining it, without setting some criteria. I think that’s dangerous, because what’s happening in Africa, for example, those evangelist radio stations are popping up, very quickly, also in Latin America, and they are called community radio stations. Also private radio stations which eventually will be sold to some commercial network, are also called community radio stations. So, my perspective on this, and I’ve been talking to my friends in AMARC about this. We need to promote a legislation, not with a definition of community radio station, because is very difficult to adhere to a definition, but criteria. And those criteria could be what I mentioned before.

32:23 That a real community station is owned by the community, is managed by the community democratically, has local content, in such and such percentage, those kinds of things. But if you set those criteria, then you can decide whether we are going to award this radio station with the status of community radio station. And this one will be a confessional radio station. It doesn’t mean that it cannot exist. And this one will be an NGO radio station. And this one will be a municipal radio station. And this is another interesting thing. In Spain, you have hundreds of municipal radio stations, which are financed by the municipality and ran by a council which is made up of community members, which is a very interesting format and could happen in Latin America.

33:08 Right now you have in Bolivia and Venezuela, governments, in Colombia also, government giving licenses and setting up radio stations that are called community radio stations. Actually, there are not community radio stations, but they could become some day. They really are owned and appropriated by the community.

33:36 (On legislation) It depends on what Country. It’s amazing that in a country like Colombia, with a rightist government, the government is giving 500 licenses for community radio stations. OK. Let’s see what happens. It will be good in terms that there will be some community radio stations, and let’s see what happens, if the community can really appropriate them. But in countries like Bolivia, where you should have a legislation that protects and recognizes community radio stations, we are not having it, because the government has the concept that community radio stations are to serve the purpose of the government. So Evo Morales, our president, is setting up 30 something radio stations at the community level, without even asking the community. Just said, oh, we need to spread them here or there. So some day they will become community radio stations. Right now they are being set up, and maybe used politically by the government, which I don’t think is good. And is not good also because we have a line of communities that have requested before a license which hasn’t been granted.

34:49 So if I were to advise my own government, I’d say why don’t you first listen to these communities that are suggesting they want to have a community radio station and approve those, and approve a legislation that is more favorable because they only have a decree. The only decree they have favoring community radio stations was not done by this government, but by the government of Carlos Mesa. Carlos Mesa who was basically overthrown by Evo Morales, who is another president, is the one who said, yes community radio stations have to exist….But we need a decree, not a legislation for that.

35:23 In the Middle East is interesting, I’ve been in contact with AMARC, writing reports and things like that, evaluations. AMARC met for the first time in the Middle East last year in Amman, Jordan, and we had people from Iran, from Iraq, from all the Arab countries, and there is no community radio station there, because as you know Arab countries are very tough in controlling information. So what they have decided, is that they have radio stations through internet, which nobody can control. So they have a station, and they have people who have access to internet. Is not real broadcast. You just can access the stations and hear the programs in the internet. But I thing there is a lot of work to do there in terms of allowing community media to exist.

36:28 And I don’t see it very soon in fact. They are very protective of the way they control information, so in fact, is not going to be easy, but the fact that the ninth congress of AMARC was done in Jordan is already very good. It was an eye opener for the people in the Middle East. Because there were people from Asia, form Africa, from Lain America telling about their experiences in community radio, and people in the Middle East were saying why don’t we have this here. It would be very useful. Some NGOs, some individuals are trying to see, to convince their governments to allow them to have community media, which happened in India. At the end of the congress in Jordan, the good news was that the Indian government just approved the community radio. So very soon, if India has community radio stations, you will see that is spreading all over Asia, and you will see an enormous influence.

37:50 (On TV VIVA) When you usually talk about community radio, in my book I put, before the miner’s radio stations, the first chapter is on Radio Sutatenza in Colombia, but I don’t think that is the first important example of community media. Why? Because Radio Sutatenza as a community radio only lasted one year. This was a priest that created a small radio station in a small community, and that was a very participatory radio station, but after one year, he negotiated this with a big radio station, and they did an educational radio, which is another concept. Is networks, they have a production center and they air educational things. That’s not community radio in my understanding. So this is a risk, that things will change is there is no legislation. If here is a specific legislation for community radio, then, if you change, you have to change your status also legally. And I don’t know what happened with TV VIVA. TV VIVA. I visited them in the 80s in Recife, a wonderful experience. I went there with them, on the squares, in the open, they did this screenings with things that were at the same time informative, educational, but also humorous things, very nice things, people were really participating. Everything was done very light, with hand held cameras, everything was done in a way that was very activist, video activist. I liked it very much, and I didn’t know that they became something else later. I’ve been asking, and people say I don’t know what happened with that. And some projects fold.

40:07 We have to be clear that things change. Things are not eternal, but I think the beauty of community media is that it reproduces in different countries, in different ways, when is needed. And that’s good. And that’s the main thing. The main important thing.

41:31 We know what happened with WISIS. Is really difficult. I’ve only been in the first meeting in Geneva, I didn’t go to Tunis, but in Geneva it was clear there were two floors, and there were staircases and security between the two floors. The activists were in the bottom floor, and the legal organizations and the governments were in the second floor. And that dialogue is not going to be solved in one meeting. These are processes of communication and dialogue that will depend on different social and political context, but I thing that we have to struggle for legislations, but not for definitions, because you can spend years trying to draft a sentence, and I think that’s not good. Is better to set criteria, and if you meet that criteria, you can be considered a community media. And I think to go with criteria is better, and I’ve been advising this to AMARC, and I think that AMARC is playing an important role. The legislation office of AMARC is set in Montevideo, and is ran by Gustavo Gomez is doing extraordinary work and dialogue with governments, with international and regional organizations, to enact legislation which is favorable to community media, but I think there are not yet into setting this criteria. And I think this is the next step. To say OK, this is the criteria that is good to define what is community radio, but I would avoid the definition because it would create a fight.

43:29 (on Indymedia) I think there is a lot of convergence, but of course Indymedia is a very open source, is very important in terms of participation, anybody putting his input and collaborating, and it’s more an urban phenomenon. It’s internet. The limits of Indymedia are the limits of internet, as I said before, but I think is growing, is expanding. You have Indymedia in many countries. Sometimes is better than others, but I think the concept is a win and win situation. Is very good, I mean this concept is supportive. I’m not sure how much more could be done in terms of interacting with community media, having through Indymedia loging to stations that can access to programs and videos and all that. I’m sure it depends on which Indymedia we are talking about because some are much more developed than others. Indymedia, there is no one Indymedia. Indymedia is a concept which has been developed in different manners, in different parts of the world, but I think the potential is enormous,

45:19 Let me stress something that I said before. People who are working with the internet based programs and projects in activism, have to be more conscious about the need for them to learn from the experience of community media. Most of this people are young and don’t have the memory of what has been done in the 60s, in the 70s, with film, with video, with super-8, with community radio, with many forms, street theater, where activists, media activists where already involved, and did enormous things. And if you don’t learn from that experience, learning in terms of participation, people’s participation, and the context, and how to read the context, in each place. Because normally in the internet you are thinking about world wide. Sometimes you forget that you have to be specific many times. You see? Participation is something specific. Is not just something random, and I think hose things have to be discussed very much. One point I want to stress.

46:36 Another point I have to stress, is to our friends in Africa, and Asia, who have ten years or less, building community radio or community television, to learn more from Latin America, because we have gone through our errors, and we have learned from our mistakes and we don’t have them to do the same mistakes that we did. And so South/ South exchanges are very important, and they are not really happening that much, except for some meetings and congresses. AMARC in four years, is not enough, but we should really develop more connections South/South in terms of community media. There are not enough right now.

47:29 (About FTA) And that came up also in networks like Our Media. Our Media has been important, and you know, when we started Our Media in 1981, 80 or 81, in Washington, it was a very small group of academics, and we really didn’t know how this was going to evolve. And suddenly, two weeks ago in April, In April 2007 we had the 6th meeting of Our Media in Sydney, Australia, and suddenly we had like 600 people from 30 or 40 countries in the world. And this is a group, is not an organization, has no funding really, every new congress or conference is made by new people that organize it and seek for funding and everything, and this has contributed a lot in these exchanges about South/South, and North/South, and academics and activists. So I think that kind of thing is helping community media to develop.

49:00 There was a big divide between academics and activists, in terms of communication. I don’t know, academics are also very divided from development and social change very often. Although some are not. Some are very involved, and those that are involved are joining our media, because Our Media is a place where they can discuss what they can’t discuss in the universities. They can discuss real things that are happening with the communities, that are of their own interest. In fact I don’t understand an academic that doesn’t write out of experience. In fact, they are writing on books and processing books and books and books. Your view on another view, or some other view. That’s really very sterile. That can’t generate new thinking.

50:26 I think that our cultures, indigenous cultures in many parts of the world have a very strong history, a very strong culture, a very strong memory of what they are, a very strong identity, is very helpful for community media. I think that’s why community media in Latin America for example is so successful in rural areas, in indigenous areas. And sometimes successful in cities. Because in cities as we know the is always migrants, and migrants as we know loose part of their identity, their sense of being part of one group, and is more difficult to really have them attach one to the other. In the rural areas is very easy, because the communities are well defined, geographically, their identity, culturally, their language, and that’s why we can build, they can build a community radio station on their past, and it will be automatically, without suggesting to anyone. They will know that it has to be in their language, that it has to be culturally pertinent, that they have to manage it, that it has to work with other stations in the region, in their own language, so those things come with it.

51:45 The things that I said before, these are the on about the conditions, that will come right out of the box when they decide to create a community radio in an indigenous context. But of course the challenge is to do it in other contexts. To talk about community media in a larger sense of community. Community is not just a geographically determined community. That’s an ideal situation. But community is a community of interests. So a community can be spread in a country, A community of workers of sugar cane that are spread in a country, or coffee, or whatever. That’s the community. And then you have more a more challenging work to do, to create a community through community media.

52:50 We have to look at community not as a restrictive term in terms of geographically, it’s a community of interest. Many people don’t understand that. And when you talk about community media, they just think of a small rural community with some radio station. I think the real challenge is when you have to deal with a community of interests that may be disperse geographically. And that can be a community of coffee workers, or women, is a community, they have their own interests, and they can be spread all over the country, all over regions. So this concept of community has to be widen. When we’re talking about community, we’re not just talking about localized and geographically isolated.

53:50 I did a case study on La Primerisima for a bigger study on radio stations which is called La Práctica Inspira, Practice Inspires. What we did in that study is choose 43 radio stations in the whole Latin America, and study them from the point of view of sustainability, and some of them where sustainable only financially, and that’s another thing that we’ll develop later, but I chose La Primerisima because I know Nicaragua, I’ve been working there and La Primerisima is a strange case of community media, because is a national radio. There is no legislation in Nicaragua that defines or sets criteria for community media, but La Primerisima represents the largest community you can imagine, which is the community of Nicaraguans who are progressive and want changes in the country. And what is amazing is that La Primerisima is the second station in the country. Why is it so important for people? Because is participatory. Anyone at any point can interrupt the programming and air something that they think is important that is happening in Nicaragua. And all the programs have a very open format, a magazine format, with a telephone ringing all the time, and people saying yes, I think this, I think that. Is a constant dialogue with people, which makes a very interesting radio station without being labeled a community radio station. In fact William Gris, the director says, we don’t want the legislation of community radio here, we’re doing very well like we are. And this is an organization that is community owned, a community of independent journalists that run the community station. Those are the owners of the station. So is a very interesting experience.

55:54 The other issue that I wanted to add, and you can cut whatever you want, and is the issue of sustainability. In English, again, we’re talking about words. There is a distortion. We say sustainability, and people are thinking about numbers and money. That’s not sustainability. For me there is three types of sustainability. One sustainability with three elements that are equally important. No, sorry, not equally important. The most important, is social sustainability, You can have all the money you want, you can have all the equipment you want, all the set up you want, if the community is not participating and doesn’t feel that you are representing them, and they are part of the community media, there is no social sustainability, and that can collapse. So social sustainability is so important that if there was no money and no resources, I’m sure the community would support. Which happened in Bolivia with the miner’s radio stations. These poor miners that have, everybody knows, even outside of Bolivia, that the miner’s wages are very very low, if they can give one day of salary to sustain the radio station, that means that it is important for them. And any work, the poorest of the poor, that has sometimes a beer, instead of paying for that beer can support the radio station, if he or she considers that that radio station is important. So sustainability is above all a social issue, social sustainability. Then of course there is economical sustainability, of which there are many forms, external, internal, advertising. AMARC is fighting to have legislation that allows community media to have advertising on local things, you know, the butcher or the whatever. There is many ways to get that, or from NGOs, from educational programs, there is many ways to do that. And of course the institutional sustainability which is of course the internal democracy, of the radio station. How the director is elected, what’s the relation between the staff, and also the legislation that protects or not the radio station. SO institutional sustainability, social sustainability, and financial sustainability are sustainability, not just economic sustainability.

Interview conducted by Victoria Maldonado and DeeDee Halleck