Feb 14

Talking Community Media! – Literature discussion

28 feb, 19:10 – 19:30

This Hangout will focus on literature about Community Media and we will discuss how Rennie, Howley and Cammaerts answer the following questions:

  • What is meant by community?
  • How is community media defined?
  • Why is it important in terms of social change?
Please read the related blog posts that will be the basis for our discussion.


Feb 14

Community, Community Media and a hint of Social Change – according to Howley

What is meant by community? What is community media? Why is it important in terms of social change?

These questions are the starting point of the journey into exploring community media and in this post I will try to answer the questions from the perspective of Kevin Howley with reference to his book Community Media – People, Places, and Communication Technologies from 2005.

Regarding the first question, What is meant by community? – I have chosen three different but equally interesting definitions of community which Howley has applied. One definition, which originates from political scientist Benedict Anderson, refers to the nation-state and the ever so powerful print-capitalism. Howley cites Anderson who argues that the production and ritual consumption of daily newspapers creates simultaneity and a common symbolic space for inhabitants of the nation. However, it is not just the production of news papers but also e.g. record keeping, novels and bureaucratic prints which creates the imagined community of nationalism and sustains a deep, horizontal comradeship.

The second definition Howley apply is from anthropologist Anthony Cohen who means that borders and boundaries which construct communities are in large symbolically constructed and that they both contain and differentiate. Theses symbolic practices define whether you belong to a community or not and they can be simple things as how to dress and speak and how not to dress and speak. Therefore communities are “expressions of commonality as well as difference”.

Next, Howley brings up Stuart Hall’s Articulation theory which explores the connections of elements. The connection, or linkage, can be as simple as the truck and a trailer pulled by the truck but also more complicated as the alliance between social actors in politics. Hall also states that these connections are volatile and contingent. Howley concludes that “articulation offers a way to conceptualize community as a unity of differences; a unity forged through symbol, ritual, language and discursive practices”.

Hopefully we now have a fair idea of how Howley defines community and I will move on to the next question – What is community media? And Howley actually, has a very clear idea of what community media is and in just a few sentences states that it is grassroots or locally oriented media initiatives based on a dissatisfaction of mainstream media and the form this media takes. Moreover, community media is sprung out of the principles of free expression and participatory democracy and it strives to strengthen community relations and to encourage community solidarity. Howley also means that community media are popular and strategic interventions committed to democratization of media structures. Popular in the meaning that it takes care of the local needs of information and connectivity; strategic in the meaning that the purpose asserts collective identity and local autonomy in a time where media ownership is unusual on a local level. Howley gives examples on what community media encompasses by mentioning direct action campaigns, trade union and media work reforms, culture jamming, communication scholarship and other critical interventions struggling for communicative democracy.

The third question – Why is it important in terms of social change? – is partly answered on in the previous part of this post; Howley argues that community media is part of the process and a necessity for democracy. In four chapters he makes case studies of community media initiatives and analyses these from, among other perspectives, a social change perspective. Howley is interested in the technologies which are usable for community media and the case studies are related to radio, television, print and computer networks. One of the case studies are on a TV channel called DCTV and I will complete this post by citing Howley:  “DCTV rearticulates a familiar technology and in so doing promotes progressive social change, enhance cross cultural communication and creates a more democratic media culture”.


Howley, K. 2005: Community Media – People, Places, and Communication Technologies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


This blog post will be discussed along with the posts by Dawood and Elias on the same subject (but other books) in a Google Hangout which you are welcome to watch live or retroactively. 



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!


Feb 14

Ellie Rennie on Community Media

Community Media – A Global Introduction by Ellie Rennie

Ellie Rennie‘s introductory book on community media gives a general theoretical background to community media and provides examples that offer a global overview on the subject.

In this blog post, I aim to answer the following questions based on this book:

  • What is meant by community?
  • How is community media defined?
  • Why is it important in terms of social change?


What is meant by community?
Claiming to be a space that lies outside of politics – or being pre-political – community still requires politics to conceptualised or recognised. Community is formed through identification and a sense of affinity or of belonging, making it uncalculated, but made operational through the institution as a third sector.  It is viewed as a type of governance, or a means of achieving political and/or social change in society and is placed within the concept of civil society.  As the third sector in society, civil society consists of both formal and informal networks of associations, groups, clubs and cultural allegiances of everyday life that create social bonds, tying communities together.

How is community media defined?
The book is global in its scope and community media as definition is employed in a broad sense, including everything from local television in Denmark and newsletters by women in Bengal to web-based Indymedia that operates globally. Rennie has chosen to adopt a definition of community media by the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR):

Community media “originates, circulates and resonates from the sphere of civil society…This is the field of media communication that exists outside of the state and the market (often non-gonvernmental and non-profit), yet which may interact with both.”

Participation, accessibility and being non-profit are a few key elements are central to community media. Equally important to the methods, structures and organisation of community media is its aspirations and motivations. Rennie makes the connection to civil society and that community media works as one of its communication platforms and serves as both maintenance and as an extension of civil society itself.

Why is it important in terms of social change?
In terms of social change, Rennie partly relates the inclusive nature of community media and its ability to bring skills to a community. This relates to the political trend known as the third way where emphasis is put on partnership between local governments and civil society. In its essence, community media offers an alternative way of doing things, both in terms of production and organisation which makes it better adapted for activist networks and social movements to employ it to achieve social and political change. Even though Rennie argues for the transformative potential through participatory communication, she calls for caution on the expectations on development and social change. The danger lies in assessment, measurability and priorities pushed by donors that in effect shape what community media is made and by whom. Rennie calls emphasis to be put on the empowerment aspects of community media, supporting the “on-the-ground” usefulness and not donor-expected development objectives.

One of the most important aspects are credited to the self-representation and self-expression that community media offers, which is an essential part for societies to foster democracy and free speech. Participatory acts of representing oneself, presenting ideas, expressing culture or politics through personal stories, local concerns and unhindered commentary, show us what is happening in civil society and ultimately has consequences for democracy.


This blog post will be discussed along with the posts by Dawood and Maria on the same subject (but other books) in a Google Hangout which you are welcome to watch live or retroactively. 

Feb 14

Introduction to community media

What function does community media play on the macro level of society?

From the beginning of the study of the master inC4D I realized where my main interests lay. In cultural representation, or in other words, culture and development and in the dynamics of power relations in society. A well functioning society seem to have a healthy balance between state, market and the civil society. Today, unfortunately, direct and participatory civil action, that for many are at the base of the democratic process,  is being undermined by a failed media system and an uncontrolled market expansion. In a collection of studies named “Reclaming the media” by Bart Cammaerts and Nico Carpentier, the underlying argument is how crucial media is for the participation of the citizen in the democratic process. However there is an ungoing debate of the width and definition of citizenship today.  

Cammaerts points to the fact that citizenship constantly is changing. The global        economy has weakened the nation- state and therefore the older definition of citizenship that was more or less linked to the nation state not longer as valid. Instead people identify themselves more and more with culture, ethnicity,sex, individual values, what has been called ’cultural citizenship’. Another word for this change has been called ’intimization” by professor Van Zoonen at Erasmus university. I believe it’s a good word for how the private sphere is becoming a part of citizenship. Here, community and alternative media may play a crucial role in communicating the new citizenship. This process is not unproblematic though since structures, institutions and muncipalities in society still are leaning towards the older definition of citizenship where agency is separated from private matters and where the citizen is active in its capacity of having rights and obligations towards the state. The shrinking of the public spaces, due to the markets increasing influence over politics and communication and media, calls for alternative and pluralistic channels for people to express and share ideas. As some of the researchers has argued, the result of not including the emerging identities and concerns of ordinary people into the public sphere can be dyer and further undermine the credibility of democracy in western societies.


This blog post will be discussed along with the posts by Dawood and Maria on the same subject (but other books) in a Google Hangout which you are welcome to watch live or retroactively. 


Feb 14

Hello community!

We’re very excited to get this blog started! Please, hang tight while we resolve some issues and then we’ll take you on a exploratory journey into the world of community media.


Elias, Maria and Dawood