As understanding of community radio practices and its

 

As
such no specific study has been conducted on the proposed topic but other
relevant literature has been reviewed to determine the research topic. A review
of  worldwide studies pertaining to community
radio and its potential in development guide 
through a more profound understanding of community radio practices and
its role in development communication. The roots of community radio lies in the
evolution of alternative media. As Howley (2005) notes;

 

The
absence of an accessible public sphere, as a space where the people can come
together and participate in inclusive political discussions, gave rise to an
alternative realm of political debate. With the mainstream media controlled and
dominated by government, the alternative media constitute alternative communicative
spaces independent of the cohesive apparatus of the state and are thus
positioned to challenge the dominant sociopolitical order.(P-***)

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The democratic potential of
alternative media is, however, not without shortcomings. Alternative media are
so often hailed as having the potential to enhance democracy and citizenship
(Bolton, 2006). They provide platforms for the marginalized groups who do not
see their interests and concerns reflected in the mainstream media (Howley, 2005). Alternative media as a vehicle of participatory democracy
and a resource for community development help local populations to reconnect
with the civic and cultural life of their communities. In the face of a nexus
between the  government and the corporate
to control commercial and political power, community media are key to creating
a strong, socially responsible civil society and to promote local democracy.
Many scholars have noted that involvement in alternative media production can
be politically empowering for participants (Atton, 2002; Downing, 2001). In
contrast to main-stream media, which consistently have been found to exclude
the voices of ordinary citizens, alternative media offer spaces that broaden
the scope of public debate by introducing topics and participants generally
excluded by mainstream media (Pavarala & Malik, 2007).

 

The operation of
media power figures prominently in the study of alternative, citizens,’ and
community media (Couldry & Curran, 2003; Langlois & Dubois, 2005; Lewis
& Jones, 2006). Traber (1985) talks about the forms of alternative media,
he classified alternative media in two categories i.e. ‘advocacy media’ and
‘grassroots media’. The advocacy media represents alternative social factors
including, ‘the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and indeed the ordinary
manual laborer, woman, youth and child as the main subjects of their news and
features (Traber 1985- 2).
In grassroots media, information and messages are generally produced by the
same people whose concerns they represent through direct engagement and
participation. The involvement of professionals is only to the extent of
enabling ‘ordinary people to produce their own media. Traber’s primary concerns
are not just the production of information in areas where the mass media do not
penetrate, but also to provide a counter to the state-run media, Traber argues
when media production is placed in the hands of ordinary people with the help
of minimal guidance, they can develop their own news-gathering networks and
become confident reporters, writers and editors. This type of information and
the manner in which it is presented will be more appropriate and more useful
for the communities in which it is produced and distributed. Community media commonly includes radio; television; print;
and computer networks, but the nature and purpose, regardless of the medium,
carries shared characteristics. Howley
(2005) defines community media as follows:

By community media,
I refer to grassroots or locally oriented media access initiatives predicated on
a profound sense of dissatisfaction with mainstream media forms and content,
dedicated to the principles of free expression and participatory democracy, and
committed to enhancing community relations and promoting community solidarity
(p.2). 

McLuhan (1964)
described radio as ‘the tribal drum’. Radio for him is an earthy medium with
the native power to involve people in one another and resonating a web of
kinship. He argued that radio revives the primordial ‘acoustic space’ of oral
societies and thus creates an environment of simultaneous experiences and
sensory unification. Emphasizing the potential of community radio in terms of
reach Pavarala (2007) notes;

Radio
reaches communities at the very end of the development road-people who live in
areas with no phones and no electricity. Radio reaches people who can’t read or
write. Radio is a relatively economical medium, and even in very poor
communities, radio penetration is vast. It is portable and has made its way
into regions where television has not yet reached. Radio has the advantage of
adaptability for localized coverage of news, events, and community-based
programmes (Pavarala & Malik, 2007).

It is a type of radio service that caters to the
interests of a certain area, broadcasting material that is popular to a local
audience but is overlooked by more powerful broadcast groups (Dutta & Ray,
2009, p. 4).  According to Dagron (2001),
radio is the most pervasive and economical electronic medium in the world with
the potential to serve as an ‘ideal medium for change’. For over 50 years now,
radio has been the ‘most appealing tool’ for participatory communication and
development and community radio stations have ‘multiplied by the thousands’ all
over the world. Tabing (2002: 9) defines a community radio station as ‘one that
is operated in the community, for the community, about the community and by the
community’. Tabing (2002) further talks about the  term ‘community’ and explains ‘the community can
be territorial or geographical, a township, village, district or island and can
also be a group of people with common interests, who are not necessarily living
in one defined territory’. Thus community radio may be owned and managed by one
group or by combined groups. It could also be controlled and run by people such
as women, children, farmers, fisher folk, ethnic groups, or senior citizens.
Tabing points out that a high degree of people’s participation, both in management
and programme production aspects distinguishes community radio from other
media. Also, the principal sources of support for community radio operations
are individual community members and local institutions.