Community Media Discussion - Developing a Community Cohesion Charter for Independent and Community Media

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In our next community media discussion, we will be discussing the need for investment and action on community cohesion. Many towns and cities are faced with the disappearance and decline of robust independent local media outlets that used to provide news and representative content that served the population of that specific place. In Leicester, for example, the fragmentation of traditional social identities, with the recent arrival of many people from different places around the world, means that it is increasingly difficult to foster a common sense of belonging. Many people do not have access to the media resources that enable them to interact with people from other communities. Moreover, the role that our media has plaid in this process of fragmentation is a cause for concern. For example, it’s alarming that the BBC is reducing its local radio services across England at a time when the dangers of misinformation from abroad are ever more present, and represent a real threat to our local social wellbeing. In this discussion, we are going to look at a proposal for a Community Cohesion Charter for independent and community media in Leicester. We will ask how a charter that promotes social inclusion might help community media makers and advocates renew their commitment to the purpose of creating a society that is integrated rather than segregated.

Join us to discuss how community communications and community sensemaking can change society for the better by opening up our media to greater diversity, inclusivity, participation and civic engagement.

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With the decline of local media, as local newspapers are hollowed out, and as the BBC cuts its local radio services, the importance of independent and community media in fostering a sense of community cohesion cannot be overstated.  In line with the urgent need to counter misinformation and communication chaos, and for us all to be able to live in a healthy and informed society, I’m proposing a call to action for community media makers and community advocates in Leicester, in which we come together and develop a Community Cohesion Charter that makes social solidarity and equality the principal purpose of the media we make and share.

This charter will outline the principles and guidelines for independent media outlets in Leicester, ensuring their role in fostering community cohesion, intercultural understanding, and inclusion. Building upon the ideas presented in the article “The Urgent Need to Counter Misinformation and Communication Chaos: A Call to Action,” let us explore the potential for such a charter. There are essential lessons to be learnt from many other places across the UK, and how they get applied needs to be adapted and purposed to fit with each area’s local circumstances. Given that Leicester is a ‘super-diverse’ city, what do we understand by community cohesion in these unique circumstances?

1. Identifying Stakeholders and Setting the Agenda:
To initiate this discussion, it is essential to identify key stakeholders representing various community groups, media professionals, local authorities, and community organisations in Leicester. These stakeholders will play a vital role in shaping the agenda for the development of the Community Cohesion Charter. Their diverse perspectives and expertise will ensure the charter’s inclusivity and effectiveness in addressing the specific challenges faced by Leicester’s communities.

2. Defining Principles and Guidelines:
The charter should establish a set of principles and guidelines that independent media outlets in Leicester can adopt so that they can help promote community cohesion. These principles may include a commitment to accurate reporting, responsible journalism, and fact-checking to counter misinformation effectively. The guidelines can encourage media outlets to prioritize local news, amplify diverse voices, and provide platforms for underrepresented communities. Additionally, the charter can emphasize the importance of intercultural understanding, cultural sensitivity, and the promotion of dialogue to bridge divides within the community.

3. Encouraging Collaboration and Partnerships:
The Community Cohesion Charter should encourage collaboration and partnerships between independent media outlets, community organisations, and local authorities. By working together, these stakeholders can develop initiatives that promote community cohesion, such as joint storytelling projects, community events, and educational programs. Collaboration will ensure a coordinated approach to address issues of misinformation, disinformation, and communication chaos while fostering an inclusive media ecosystem.

4. Ensuring Accountability and Evaluation:
To ensure the effectiveness of the Community Cohesion Charter, mechanisms for accountability and evaluation should be established. Independent media outlets can be encouraged to regularly assess their adherence to the charter’s principles and report on their progress. The charter can also facilitate a feedback mechanism where community members can provide input, raise concerns, and hold media outlets accountable. Regular evaluations will help identify areas for improvement and ensure the charter remains responsive to evolving community needs.

The development of a Community Cohesion Charter for independent media in Leicester presents an opportunity to establish guidelines and principles that promote community cohesion, intercultural understanding, and inclusion. By initiating a discussion among interested community advocates and stakeholders, we can shape the charter to address the unique challenges faced by Leicester’s diverse communities. This collaborative effort will not only benefit media outlets, but also empower the community to actively participate in creating an informed and cohesive society. Let us embrace this call to action and work together to build a media landscape that reflects and strengthens the rich tapestry of Leicester’s communities.