The Development Broadcasting Unit (DBU) is a unit of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). DBU is overseen by a Steering Committee which comprises of MBC management, a representative from Chancellor College, a representative from Malawi Economic Justice Network and a representative from Ministry of Local Government. The committee is chaired by the MBC Director General. DBU was established in 1999 with funding from the British Department for International Development (DFID).
DBU engages in development programming and has vast experience in development communication. The unit uses participatory communication approaches to ensure national dialogue around development issues. Through the participatory approaches, marginalised communities are given access to radio and TV where they bring out issues affecting them and are linked to service providers for action oriented dialogue within the community. The issues raised are mainly centred on addressing development challenges they face at community level. DBU believes that the right to development can best be achieved by reducing the gap (due to power relations) between the communities and duty bearers through regular contact and dialogue.
In the DBU approach, communities are mobilized around a Radio Listening Club (RLC) which is at the centre of the development activities. The RLCs are trained in radio programme production, problem identification and solving, human rights, advocacy, local government structures and other development related issues. Some of the radio programmes under DBU are produced by the communities themselves. DBU produces and facilitates broadcast of radio and TV programmes, radio and TV jingles and spots.
For programmes produced by the RLCs, DBU follows a five step methodology. Through this methodology, a community, with guidance from the RLC, first identifies the problem, then develops a village voice – a discussion by the community on the problem identified. The village voice is followed by the dialogue where community members engage service providers or duty bearers in a discussion on the problem identified and agree on the plan of action. The village voice and dialogue are generated into a programme that is then broadcast on MBC radio channels. Finally, there is a reflection on the programme that has been broadcast.
DBU has worked with a number of partners in development related activities. The role of DBU has been the provision of a platform for communities to dialogue with service providers and duty bearers on development related issues. Through the work of DBU at local level, communities have realised their potential to initiate and contribute to development at the grassroots. The communities have also engaged duty bearers to address development challenges in their areas.
The Unit further provides a platform for tailored media campaigns and advocacy. It has well trained personnel in media advocacy and campaign which utilises the best communication method and strategies to achieve measurable results. Some of the organizations that DBU has worked with include the National AIDS Commission (NAC), Oxfam, Unicef, the Department of Nutrition and HIV and AIDS, Malawi Liverpool Welcome Trust, Feed the Children Malawi, Malawi Carer, Malawi Environment Endowment Trust and Leadership for Environment and Advocacy.
Some of the projects that DBU has implemented covered the following programme areas: health (including HIV and AIDS), nutrition, human rights and gender, child protection, agriculture (radio extension), environment, education and disaster management.
DBU has a team of dedicated and well qualified staff in development communication, community mobilization, research, project management and radio and TV programme production. The unit liaises with the Programmes Department of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation for its programme broadcasts.