The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is a biennial multi-stakeholder forum established by the UN General Assembly to review progress, share knowledge and discuss the latest developments and trends in reducing disaster risk.

The sixth session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GP2019) took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 13 to 17 May, 2019, convened and organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and hosted by the Government of Switzerland.

In this framework, AMARC was invited to represent the community radio sector on the panel discussion, organized by WBU (Worldwide Broadcasting Unions), on the role of media in disaster risk reduction and how accurate and timely information through tv, radio and printed media could impact positively populations, preparing them against disasters and alerting them on increasing disaster risk.

The debate underlined the importance of the cooperation-in all phase of disaster risk management policies between media, governments and international agencies. From the perspective of community broadcasters, AMARC highlighted the double role of community media: gather information from local communities, sharing it with other actors on the ground, and addressing information to the communities, with coordinated messages and the use of local languages.

During or just after natural disasters, as a matter of fact, despite the need to increase the information flow, AMARC registered the trend to decrease it. This is due to a variety of reasons:. Radio stations might have been affected by the disaster (studio, or broadcasting devices, mainly antenna system and tower), or the personnel of the radio station might have been affected, directly or indirectly (family, friends etc..), and therefore it can have less time for the radio activities

The issue of IDPs, Internal Displaced People is not secondary: personnel of the radio station can move from one place to another within the country. (ex: people from Port au Prince was moving back to their original provinces in other cities, after the disaster of 2010).

For local commercial stations the problems are exactly the same. Even if the radio or the personnel have not been directly affected, the local advertisement mechanism decreases, and therefore some stations are obliged to stop or reduce the broadcasting hours due to a decrease of income. Last but not least, power supply can be very problematic

Nowadays, AMARC, with a variety of partners from the journalistic, technical, civil society and academic sector, is exploring new technologies available to support the role of media in disaster risk reduction. Within the Grassroots Wavelenghts project (EU H2020 program), new possibilities are in place through:

  • Strong interaction between mobile telephony and traditional radio through the RootIo mechanism, an open source platform, telephone application and radio management system, with a strong capacity to enhance listeners participation, remote control mechanisms for traditional radio programming, messaging possibilities etc..
  • TTS technologies: Text To Speech technologies and their use for radio are increasingly interesting, in especially if related to public service announcements, real time messaging on radio and a variety of messages to be provided in real time through text (cell phones) and audio, through radios.

According to the Grassroot Radio project partner involved in TTS research and technology, CEREPROC, the development process is quite advanced for “traditional” widespread languages (English, French, Russian etc..). Doing regional accents is quite easy and building a voice could be done in a couple of days if the major language component is already done. For new languages it is still quite time consuming, around 6-12 months to do a decent job avoiding errors.

Some final recommendations have been submitted by AMARC to UNDRR and WBU. First of all, an emergency fund needs to be in place to support community radios in times of disasters. Emergency broadcasting is a challenge in urban and semi urban locations i.e. in Asia-Pacific due to the over use of spectrum. For this reason, clear policy guideline should ensure the collaboration between broadcasters and telecommunication service providers at times of disaster, Finally, there is the need to foster policies and practices of cooperation among different types of broadcasters, Public Service Broadcasters, commercial and community radios.