Broadcasting is crucial to rural development. One of the branches of broadcasting that focuses on rural development is community radio broadcasting. Countries where community radio exists use this channel to establish a two-way communication channel that fosters participatory development.
What is community radio?
Community radio is people-oriented broadcasting. This is radio broadcasting that entails participation of community members in production and dissemination of programme contents of the station. In this kind of broadcasting, residents of the community produce and broadcast their own programmes. They also participate in operating the station. Community radio is a platform for people to meet and collaborate with one another. This kind of broadcasting facilitates individual creativity and self-empowerment among community members. Members of the community who participate in community radio find it extraordinarily satisfying that they are part of the transformation of their community and improving the life of their people.
A typical community radio station is operated, owned, and influenced by the community it serves. The community could be in rural or urban area but the focus is often on rural community radio basically because of its role in fostering rural development. Community radio stations are generally nonprofit stations which primary aim is to serve the interest of communities. They basically focus on programmes that appeal to rural dwellers which are different from programmes which form the bulk of commercial radio contents. This kind of radio station is primarily about the community. Community radio aims to satisfy information needs of rural people.
A community refers to a group of people who live together in a common location. They have interactional relationship, living within a common boundary and having similar community sentiments. People in a community understand their challenges and development desires. This makes it easier for them to know how best to package development communication programmes on radio that will reflect their needs.
Community radio emphasizes service and community-mindedness, focusing on what the station can do for the community. It is defined by community involvement and participation. For rural community radio, programme content and operators of the station are largely members of the community. It is not like commercial radio based in urban area but reporting about a rural community. In community radio, members of the community play major role in content production and dissemination. This kind of radio broadcasting emphasizes involvement and participation by the listener. Community radio stations serve geographic communities. The communities have similar interests. These stations air programmes that are popular and relevant to a specific local audience. Modern community radio stations offer diverse contents that are not necessarily provided by the larger commercial radio stations.
A radio station located in rural community but not operated by members of that community is not a rural community radio station. This is what basically exists in many rural communities in Nigeria. Most radio stations in rural communities in Nigeria are operated by people from outside the community. Whether the station is located in rural or urban community, the fact is that members of that community should produce and broadcast contents of the radio station.
Community radio is popular across the world especially in developing nations. It plays crucial role in development communication aimed at improving the lives of rural dwellers. Community radio is common in Ghana and some other African countries where government uses such channels for rural development purposes. Here are the basic functions of community radio.
Functions of community radio
- Community radio emphasizes a two-way process which ensures that listeners, largely members of a particular community are carried along in programme content production and development goals of the station.
- Community radio plays agenda-setting roles in specific communities. Those who operate the stations understand the needs of specific communities and by constantly airing programmes reflecting those needs, listeners could begin to discuss them and consider taking action towards helping achieve such goals. Through this agenda-setting function community radio mobilizes members of a community towards participating in development of their community.
- It plays the basic media roles of information, education and entertainment for community members.
- It offers an opportunity for a particular community to participate actively in the media as planners, producers and performers.
- It provides platform for a community to express itself to the world as it presents its talents, challenges, information needs and prospects to listeners.
- Community radio provides a mechanism for enabling individuals, groups, and communities to tell their own stories, to share experiences and, in a media-rich world.
- Community radio provides platform for members of a community to become media content creators as programme producers, guest artists, anchors, on-air personalities and generally contributors of media.
- Community radio acts as a vehicle for the community and voluntary sector, civil society, agencies, NGOs and citizens to work in partnership with a view to achieving community development goals.
- Rural community radio mobilizes villagers to take an active part in the development process and take their own initiative to improve the living conditions in their communities.
- Community radio acts as a substitute for formal education especially listeners in rural areas.
- Rural community radio provides platform for communities to articulate their experiences, examine issues and policies affecting their lives through radio phone-in programmes which involve listeners in specific communities.
- Community radio (especially rural community radio) could be used for specific development purposes. For in instance, it could be used for agricultural development by passing vital information on better farming methods, improved seeds, timely planting, agro-forestry, better harvesting methods, soil conservation, marketing, post harvest handling and diversification.
- Community radio uses local language of a specific community to break language barrier and give listeners a sense of belonging.
- Community radio provides a platform for accountability among public office holders. Through this radio system, community members hold their leaders accountable and request that they use their positions to attract development to the community. Where such leaders have not performed they are exposed through community radio as members of the community know their environment very well and can tell when development projects and programmes have taken place in their community.
Community radio is participatory in nature and this makes community members, especially rural dwellers to feel they are part and parcel of the programmes and the station in general. Community members easily identify with the people in the programmes and this could make them want to listen to local broadcasters in community radio within their environment rather than to a distant broadcaster far away in the city. Community radio is very crucial in achieving development communication goals.