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

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

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 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.


Feb 14

Combating ‘Hate Radio’

As any means of communication, radio can be used for the good of a community, or to incite hate and conflict. The role of the radio station RTLM in spurring the Rwandan genocide is well documented and can not be underestimated. It is a disturbing piece of history and an example of hate radio where enemies are singled out and violence and murder is encouraged.

The case of RTLM in Rwanda is an extreme example of hate radio, but the tendency to use radio as a means to spur conflict is not unusual. During the post-election violence in Kenya, radio stations were found to have contributed to the violence that spurred ethnic hatred and conflict. In my attempts to make a conclusion that community radio with its participatory approach is not subject to hate radio, I find conflicting sources on its role. Evidence show that some community stations played an important role in curtailing the violence and promote peace during the post-election violence. Other sources imply that community radio stations seem to have utilised hate speech even though the private and commercial radio stations seem to have a greater tendency to do so. Yet, other sources say that these community stations are not true community radios but rather local ethnic-based radio stations. The argument is that the essence of community radio is to bring the community together and not to create conflict. I would assume that private and commercially driven station has less commitment to its community and more prone to political and economical pressure, making it easier for politicians to control/affect programming. This was the case of RTLM in Rwanda which was headed by politicians.

In this interview, Brenda Leonard from Bush Radio in Cape Town talks about the power of radio and the responsibility that broadcasters for what they broadcast and the consequences that it has. She says that stations select their targeted listeners (their community) and that it creates a bias that is important to attend to so that the bias does not change into arrogance and hate towards other communities. She argues for the need of regulation for what and how radio can be conducted and that mechanisms need to be in place that can be used when hate speech or other breaching of regulation takes place. She also argues for the role of community radio stations to take a stance and diffuse situations before they start.

Here is an interesting project that aims to highlight xenophobia and hate radio by recreating the broadcasts of RTLM in Rwanda in a funny and entertaining way using theatre.  Is it an effective way of spreading awareness and combating hate radio? Please share other examples if you have some!

After this post, I am left with a question. Are “true community radios” immune from the phenomena of hate radio? Please share your thoughts.


Feb 14

(Re)defining Community


Both Howley and Rennie touch upon the definition of community. They both conclude that the notion of community/communities is difficult to define and the borders and boundaries that differentiate them are largely constructed through symbolic practices or locality. Communities can be expressions of similarities as well as differences and often contains difference within unity, constructing a shared collective identity.

In the context of community radio, the community has generally been viewed as the listeners in a specific geographical place, and the very purpose of the radio station has been to serve that geographical community and to be of, by and for the people of that specific place. This remains true, but the entrance of social media and the interconnectivity that the Internet and mobile phones offer, unties the definition of community from its geographical limitations. Community is no longer limited to the reach of the FM/AM airwaves but can now be amplified through online streaming that can be accessed by a global audience.

Social media and mobile phones has a dramatic effect on the notion of community, expanding to include imagined communities and virtual communities. With the extension to social media, mobile phones and the Internet, the radio stations can engage with their audience in a way that has not previously been possible. For example, such extension of the airwaves allows for the diaspora of the “originally targeted community” to engage in community radio stations, not only passively listening to the concerns of their past geographical community but also to give feedback, engage in debates and raise concerns.  It also opens up for interactivity and live participation that can have a direct effect on programming content. The global enters the local in a whole new way, converging into a glocality that challenges old definitions of community in community media.

Just the fact that I can sit in Stockholm, Sweden and tune in to an internet broadcast of a community radio station in South Africa and have a direct channel with the station via social media shows the complexity of the notion of community in community radio. Am I part of the community or not? Am I an intruder to engage?

This opens up for questions which requires further exploration.
Please give me your thoughts!