Reaching the community through community radio: readjusting to the new realities: a case study investigating the changing nature of community access and participation in three community radio stations in three countries, New Zealand, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Community radio is often described as a medium that celebrates the small community life and where local community members plan, produce and present their own programmes. However, many believe that the radio management policies are now increasingly sidelining this aspect of the radio. This is ironic given the fact that the radio stations are supposed to be community platforms where members converge to celebrate their community life and discuss issues of mutual interest. In this case study, I have studied three community radio stations- RS in Nepal, KCR in Sri Lanka and SCR in New Zealand- investigating how the radio management policies are positively or negatively, affecting community access and participation. The study shows that in their effort to stay economically sustainable, the three stations are gradually evolving as a 'hybrid'; something that sits in-between community and commercial radio. Consequently, programmes that are produced by the local community are often replaced by programmes that are produced by full-time paid staff; and they are more entertaining in nature and accommodate more advertisements. The radio stations also actively seek the sale of airtime to well-funded NGOs, giving agency-driven programmes priority over local community programmes. This means the stations have become vehicles that help agency objectives. Hence, although 'hybrid' initiatives have merits financially, while depicting as local community representatives, they are marginalising the voices and interests of the very people that gave the radio stations their community characteristics and identity. Hence, in the interest of earning more revenue to secure market survival, the 'hybrid' initiatives are in fact, settling for a lesser community role. This study also shows that although management policy decisions aimed at greater financial sustainability have impacted on local community access and participation in the way they used to be, by readjusting to the new realities of modern-day communications, the three stations are also providing a second 'hybrid' pathway, a new interactive radio environment enabling stronger community access and participation. As this new platform facilitates unhindered local community access and participation in the radio, it is also viewed as a solution that will help them to utilise more of their on-air time for revenue-generating programmes. The new platform is also seen as the answer to reach the new generation youth and increase their participation, thereby, in fact, further strengthening community participation in the radio.
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