While serving a worthwhile mission, Equal Access International has also at times created a negative impact amongst emerging/startup local businesses who do not always have the means or financial resources to compete with well-capitalized "MNC"s of the development media world. In Cambodia, the arrival of Equal Access's operations had a significant ripple effect across the board in the local media production scene, with many emerging and local producers (Khmer and foreigner alike) struggling for business when faced with this well-capitalized international non-profit newcomer competitor. It would be unfortunate if such trends persisted, either with Equal Access or other international/MNC-style non-profit development media groups. In my view, the overarching goal of any such organizations should be to support and encourage such private sector startups so as to encourage a robust civil society--not to stifle them. Moreover, I fail to see the advantage of remitting production revenue out of the developing host country towards the developed-country headquarters, when fully capable local producers might ably produce the same media while keeping those earnings within the country in local banks, via local staff. Insofar as this is a situation which extends beyond Equal Access towards other well-capitalized non-profit "MNC"s in the development communications arena, Equal Access alone can't be faulted. But these trends should be studied and acted upon quickly so as to implement mechanisms to ensure that, no matter how well-meaning, a well-capitalized international non-profit such as Equal Access cannot wittingly or unwittingly negatively impact local emerging media startups who may, in fact, better serve the interests of the local LDC.
Equal Access 08/12/2009
In all contexts, including Cambodia, Equal Access coordinates activities with key stakeholders, including local governments, international donors, international and local NGOs, and the private sector. Equal Access works with these partners to bring accurate, relevant and beneficial information to populations underserved by traditional media outlets. It is not our intention to compete with local media production organizations. On the contrary, Equal Access directly supports 16 provincially-based FM radio station with funding, programming and, when possible, equipment. It is our goal that these stations improve their capacity to develop high-quality, informative content on their own. Additionally, on several of our projects, we have directly funded local and complimentary media outlets to fulfill various aspects of our initiatives. We feel our work is contributing to a diversification of the media landscape in Cambodia and elsewhere and thus contributing to a more robust civil society. Beyond the local media landscape, we partner with local NGOS in rural areas and with village citizens to provide training and resources that increase their capacity to affect positive social change. Equal Access operates on minimal budgets, employing local Cambodian media professionals and procuring equipment locally whenever possible. Our overheads - the costs of maintaining offices, complying with donor financial and project management regulations, equipping, insuring and training staff members - are low relative to other international organizations. Equal Access maintains low operational costs because we are dedicated to delivering cost-effective but high quality services to beneficiaries. As evidence, Equal Access recently completed a two-year program in Cambodia that reached over 4 million radio listeners with critical information about the 2008 national elections, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, and the ongoing decentralization process for less than $0.20 per listener. Equal Access in Cambodia is able to continue producing four ongoing educational radio programs (broadcast on local radio stations), employ a Cambodian staff of 22 media professionals and deliver needed services to underserved populations precisely because our donors are pleased with the results of our cost-effective and high-impact projects. As always, Equal Access invites any and all feedback and would welcome inquiries about possible partnerships in Cambodia and elsewhere. Please visit our website - www.equalaccess.org - for more information about our work and for contact information.
Equal Access' mission to bridge the digital divide by increased access to information as a means to alleviate economic and social conditions is very valuable. Let me bring to your attention a quote from a recent Op/Ed article in The New York Times by the Secretary General. He underscored that “…education and prevention are still the most powerful weapons against the spread of HIV – as such. Equal Access spearheads these efforts through its programmes.