Mar 14

Live blog presentation Hangout!

We will be presenting our blog on Thursday the 20th, 10:00 (Swedish Time).

You can also join the event on Google+.

See you then!

/Maria, Dawood and Elias

Mar 14

Once a Radio divide – Now a Digital divide

Inspired by Elias’ post on Brecht and Brecht’s suggestions on how to use the Radio from 1932 I want to continue by relating to the historically ongoing discussion on new technology.

As we know, new technology is developed by the minute, and thus it is very difficult and time consuming to take it all in. This is how it always has been, though. But with the digital revolution there are more implications on not to be able to follow the development than there where in the times of when the radio was new.


The term of incommunicado often refers to a state of being without the means or rights to communicate, and often the term relates to cases of incommunicado due to confinement and as a threat of extensive human rights violations. However, the term can also be used in the discussion of the digital divide or digital inclusion and digital exclusion.

From the book Incommmunicado reader,  edited by Geert Lovink and Soenke Zehle in 2005,  I have read an article by Bernardo Sorj and Luis Eduardo Guedes called Digital Divide: Conceptual Problems, Empirical Evidence and Policy Making Issues. The article is based on the authors research on computer usage in suburbs, favelas, outside Rio de Janeiro. The authors are negative to previous research on computer usage. They therefore go further in their  own research in order to find a more facetted conclusion. The main negative on previous research according to Sorj and Guedes  is that it is just based on the amount of computers available for a group of people and not.  Sorj and Guedes’ research asks questions on internet access, who is using the computer, how often, for what purpose, where and how is the constant need for updates handled.  One of the conclusion the authors strongly argues  is that in order to progress the computer literacy among people with a good outcome it is of great importance  to look further into public policies such as on education, job possibilities and gender questions.

Sorj and Guedes research  again brings us back to the question of how communities nowadays are made up. The digitally excluded are still in the community of the state/nation , but the digitally included have the possibility to meet up in other communities through the digital network.  Hence, Sorj and Guedes mean that ICT can make more injustices in the world as while the digitally included find new ways of communicating the digitally excluded become even more marginalized.


Mar 14

Culture- Collective identity- and media


Benedict Anderson coined the term ’imagined communities’ as a socially constructed community created out of ideas and concepts that was being shared through the print press. His work offered a background to nationalism, how people and a nation- state had replaced the old hierarchical structures in the West. The feeling of belonging that the content of newspapers offered also gave the citizen a sense of responsibility and a degree loyalty towards the nation and the nation- state. Today, new media and globalization has completely changed the way in which communities are being formed and the role identity play in this process. However cultural values seems to always be the cornerstone for a community to survive, thrive and strengthen themselves through communication networks.

bolivian mining

For example, the minors radio stations in Bolivia, became both cultural and political centres for many bolivians in the 1950:s and onwards. While the radio stations functioned as public spheres wherein bolivians could voice their different concerns and their demand for higher salaries, what seemed to have made them so successful was also that their indian cultural values strengthened their collective identity and gave meaning to the unions. According to Alfonso Gumucio Dagron, a bolivian communication specialist, the local mayan cultures, was steeped in ideas of solidarity and community decision- making  strengthening the bonds between the members of the communities and the collective identity. What would have happened if the sole denominator had been the struggle for higher pay? Would the radio stations become as powerful? Today, the struggle seems to be more and more about culture and identity. Liewrouw calls it a change from having to being, from materialist to post-materialist values. Everyone of us can see, how diverse and multiple new social movements emerge around different identities. Members of  NSM:s, are usually, media- savvy and well –oriented in communication technologies, but to what extent are their success dependent on the foundation of local culture and values? Today, a myriad of interest groups exists in society, many of them have constructed their collective identity through internet and alternative platforms, but in the physical world, the local and national institutions are still monolithic, built for one single type of identity and citizen. People create global communities online while simultaneously living in a gated community with guards, walls, and fences separating the rich and the poor. The cultural values and codes are also being shaped by the strongest communication networks at the expense of local communication networks making the question of the local connection even more urgent to the broader understanding of social change.



Mar 14

Community Media Forum Europe- Strengthening the Third Media Sector

Relating to previous blog posts – especially Dawood’s “Community media – public sphere – storytelling” I want to share this link and some information on the international non-governmental organization CMFE which is working with illuminating community media as a fundamental part for democracy.

CMFE is also interesting in relation to Elias’ latest post “The struggle for independent radio”, especially in regard to Elias last paragraph where he cites Rennie “”governments  should “ “endorse community as a sphere of activity outside of the state and economy” a statement which Elias is not totally agreeing upon and open to discuss.

Founded on 5 November 2004 in Germany, the CMFE aims to strengthen the participation of the “third media sector“ in European discussion and decision-making processes. The “third media sector”, or the community media sector, is the non-profit-making media serving local communities alongside the public media sector and the private commercial media sector.

CMFE is serving as a platform for networks, national federations and projects active within the sector. CMFE had in December 2013 110 members from 26 European countries, and within its 18 affiliate members it counts also individuals and organizations from Africa, Asia and North America. CMFE is an observer with the Steering Committee on the Media and Information Society of the Council of Europe and it represents the interest of the Community Media sector in various working groups at a Pan-European level, alongside other associations representing the public and the commercial media sectors, as well as media and civil society stakeholders.

”The CMFE stands for

  1. obtaining recognition of the 3rd Media Sector by the European Union and the Council of Europe as a point of reference for national culture and media policy;
  2. the drawing up of a Framework Convention on Community Media to guarantee the basic requirements on a national level;
  3. establishing funding possibilities for community media within the future MEDIA programme and other media-related EU budget lines;
  4. raising awareness about the large number of social and cultural issues which are covered and supported by the activities of community media;
  5. building up a platform for continuous dialogue and discussion on how to ensure media pluralism, freedom of expression and access to information throughout Europe;
  6. strengthening cooperation and giving support to new independent civic media initiatives in transition countries, this being a key condition for democratic participation and development in their societies.”


On the CMFE website you can find information on members, relating documents and resources, events, a news archive and several community media links.


Mar 14

Talking Community Media! – Independent or No Media?

During this session we’ll discuss the role of policy, regulation and the government in relation to community media.

Is it better to have some media, even if it is not free and independent? To what degree can community media work outside of regulation and policy to stay independent? Is global community media, not tied to regulation of the nation-state, a way to go?

March 14th 19:00

See you!


Mar 14

The struggle for independent radio

During the civil war in Sierra Leone tens of thousands were killed and a third of the population was displaced. In 2001, Andrew Kromah founded a network of independent community radio stations. During the civil war, there were no radios to communicate about the cruelties and injustices of the war so he set up a radio station to be able to inform people were for example health facilities were. The stations also played an important role in leading the process for demobilising and disarming the forces. Partnering with UN Peacekeepers, the radio was used to inform the armed forces about why they should disarm, and how and where they could do so.


The documentary “Let Us Talk” is a story about the role of community radio in Sierra Leone and how it remains being important in reporting social injustice and holding government and authorities accountable.

Andrew Kromah explains the important role of community radio in Sierra Leone today:

“This story is about a community or a country that needs independent players among the polarised politicians. “

“Giving a voice to the voiceless” is a classic slogan for community radio, but it captures the essence of its role as a mediator between authorities and citizens, speaking up for those who otherwise would not have a place in the public sphere of communication.

“We are in-between marginalised groups in most cases. We are in between the have-nots and the haves. We are in between those who make the decisions and those for who the decisions are made.”

I think regulation and the network of community radios is important for to sustain the impartial role of the stations. The network has a shared code of conduct and an ethics committee to ensure that stations are not politically intimidated or interfered.

Independence of community radio stations globally varies greatly where some countries have well established policy and regulation to ensure their independence, whereas others do not even recognise them, or stations are forced to broadcast illegally.

The case of Brazil is a different story where a study shows that many community radios have problems with ‘incumbency advantage’. Stations are often running on licences provided by politicians  and politicians or their relatives are often found in the board of directors. This directly influence the programming to their benefit. The stations might still be participatory and community-based, but their is a degree of allegiance expected by the politician, as s/he has the power to pull the plug.

Ellie Rennie (reviewed in an earlier post) argues that media must exist within regulated media environments and that governments should “endorse community as a sphere of activity outside of the state and economy”. I’m not sure I agree with this statement. Of course it would be ideal if all media was protected by policy and regulation and if the government spent resources on it to stay independent and vibrant – but I’m not sure I agree that it has to in order for community media to exist and be effective.

What do you think?


Mar 14

Community media- public sphere- storytelling

In recent posts I have returned to the main concern of community media; the public sphere as a necessity for community communication. The public sphere is separate from the market place and its competition, built around the idea of serving the ‘whole of society’ according to Cammaerts. Now, moving from the macro level to the micro level of society, what is my own experience of community media and the public sphere?

I have for more than one year worked with digital storytelling as a technique for learning and for creating space and trust among people that I hope can be the soil to build new public spheres. There have been many lessons learned but one particular lesson has been to understand how important it is for communities in Sweden to make the creation of public spheres a main development objective. And not just any public sphere, but a public sphere where learning and sharing are valued as key principles.

Digital Story from Dawood on Vimeo.



Mar 14

Talking Community Media! – Digital Storytelling

Join our next hangout as we discuss digital storytelling, the creation of public spheres and hate speech radio.


Time: 19:00-19.30

Wednesday: 5/3

Mar 14

Community radio – fulfilling a request from 1932

I ran into an interesting piece written by Bertolt Brecht in 1932, entitled “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication“. The piece critiques the innovation of radio and its limitations but also offers constructive suggestions for improvement.

…there was a moment when technology was advanced enough to produce the radio and society was not yet advanced enough to accept it. As for the radio’s object, I don’t think it can consist simply in prettifying public life. Nor is radio in my view an adequate means of bringing back cosiness to the home and making family life bearable again. But quite apart from the dubiousness of its functions, radio is one-sided when it should be two. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. 

So right! Brecht calls radio for what it is. Or was. But still often remains. But how does he think it could be improved?

So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. 

Yes! Brecht is on to something here. This is starting to sound more and more like community radio to me.

On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organize its listeners as suppliers. Any attempt by the radio to give a truly public character to public occasions is a step in the right direction.

But hey – this is what community radio does! Engaging communities to become the suppliers of content, masters of their radio waves.

The slightest advance in this direction is bound to succeed far more spectacularly than any performance of a culinary kind. As for the technique that needs to be developed for all such operations, it must follow the prime objective of turning the audience not only into pupils but into teachers. It is the radio’s formal task to give these educational operations an interesting turn, i.e. to ensure that these interests interest people.

Once again, very much the core of community radio. Participation, ownership, empowerment of the listeners. As for the technique Brecht, we have mobile phones and social media.

This is an innovation, a suggestion that seems utopian and that I myself admit to be utopian.

No Brecht, you are not utopian. Your are just born a few decades early.


Mar 14

Meaning of citizen participation

In our latest google hangout Maria mentioned the coming election in Sweden and pointed out the possibility of ’parallel public spheres’, the mainstream media and other groups centered around different interests, usually taking place on the internet. I would like to elaborate further on this and bring in the research from Cammaerts into the discussion. Studies on media, civil action and participation show that 1) the definition of citizenship has turned into consumerism and cultural citizenship 2) the mainstream media is failing to voice the concerns of its citizens.

When talking to people in general I am usually struck by how unengaged people are in politics. Especially young people, seem to have completely lost their trust in mainstream media and instead finding alternative news channels on the internet. Others feel that the real issues are never really discussed in the public sphere, and therefore don’t act their right to express themselves. Since the commercialization of media, the political dimension of communication seems more and more absent pushing its citizens to find alternative spheres. However, whether public spheres are created on the internet or in mainstream media, ’real participation’ of the citizen must directly adress power, according to professor Jan Servaes. It suggests that, we can have diverse media channels and so called ’free choice’ among them without having real participation. Sociologist Zygmund Bauman argues that the freedom of choice for the European citizen is shrinking, since the the tool of power of participation that lied within the law and and legislation has been transfered to the markets.

Participation in democracy today, in my opinion, is not so much about ’real participation’ but about information, services and choice of entertainment content. The case of the postal service in Finland illustrates well how the citizen is not only caught between disfunctional media and a company but also how the municipalities constrain citizen participation. The background story is that the The Finish Postal Service wanted to rationalize their postal services and ordered the residents to move the local citizens mail boxes, the citizens opposed this and organized themselves.

The municipalites in Finland (like in Sweden) usually adress their citizens as ’clients’ offering services rather than including them into participatory processes of real decision- making. The local media also acted in opposition to the citizens, demonstrating the failure of media to politicize the concerns of the residents. Auli Harju argues that traditional journalism is molded in principles of autonomity and indepence that make the journalist want to take distance from the citizen, portraying the citizen as passive rather than as an actor in the civic society. In this case, the media posted the Postal Offices arguments as facts in the main news pages whereas the the residents voices was found in the local papers at the end. Secondly, media tends to focus on conflict and drama in stories, therefore making it even harder to create that public sphere for discussion among different groups and interests. Even though the local media covered the story, they did not follow up on questions regarding citizen participation, nor did they facilitate or maintain a public sphere for a dialogue to continue.

Returning to the idea of the parallel public spheres in the beginning of this post; If the citizen can’t rely on the media to politicize its concerns anymore and if the state and municipalities still define the citizen in the traditional way, as a receiver of information and services, where could the citizen have a real discussion on matters that concerns his/her life? How can community media challenge the commercial mass media and the old nation- state definition of citizenship?