Rural radio is a very essential communication tool for achieving development goals especially in developing countries. Despite technological advancement which has changed the way society operates in diverse ways, radio is still the most pervasive, accessible and affordable mass medium available, especially to rural dwellers. Radio is largely the only medium that can rapidly disseminate information to large and remote audiences, critical information about emergencies, markets, weather, crops and livestock production, natural resource protection.
Broadcasting is crucial to rural development. One of the branches of broadcasting that focuses on rural development is rural radio broadcasting. Countries where rural community radio exists use this channel to establish a two-way communication channel that fosters participatory development. Rural radio is used to target an audience comprising majorly of highly illiterate listeners and it is used to overcome the problems of geographical and language barriers.
What is rural radio?
Rural radio is people-oriented broadcasting. This is radio broadcasting that entails active participation of community members in production and dissemination of programme contents of the station. Community members are involved in the planning and production activities of the radio broadcasts. Fao.org describes rural radio as the expression of the community rather than a channel for the community, since it promotes the exchange of views, brings people closer together, stimulates information, and enhances the value of local knowledge.
In rural radio 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 rural community radio station is operated, owned, and influenced by the community it serves. The community radio plays crucial 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. Rural community radio aims to satisfy information needs of rural people.
A rural community refers to a group of people who live together in a common location, particular in a rural area. 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.
Rural 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.
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.
Functions of Rural community radio
Rural 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.
Rural 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 rural 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.
Rural 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.
Rural 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.
Rural 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.
Rural 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.
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.
Rural community radio uses local language of a specific community to break language barrier and give listeners a sense of belonging.
RuralCommunity 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.
Rural radio helps to improve the quality of life for the rural dwellers by highlighting and examining problems and issues that need to be understood and tackled to achieve development in rural communities.
Rural radio is used to maintain a regular two way communications between the poor or marginalized rural dwellers and the urban cities especially with the government or those who hold political power.
Rural radio facilitates social change that includes rural development experts or practitioners who enlighten listeners on how to adapt to evolving trends in the society.
Rural radio is used for mobilization of the much neglected rural dwellers in the hinterland, especially areas hardly accessed by government officials.
Rural radio is used to identify important issues and news in the community in order to inform the citizens of these issues.
Rural 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. Rural community radio is very crucial in achieving development communication goals.