Community radio stations in Africa and other parts of the developing world are a highly important tool for enabling isolated communities to voice their opinions and concerns. This blog concentrates on how community radio, particularly in Africa, discusses with ordinary rural citizens issues that are central to them. This could be sharing farming tips, helping to educate the illiterate, or combating HIV and other diseases.
A spokesperson for The Communication for Social Change Consortiumstated that community radio was a platform that could provide new opportunities for inclusive and sustainable development. The consortium is a non-profit organization that helps third world and poor communities use community radio to improve their lives. The current situation in the Developing World is that millions of voices are unheard. And a great proportion of the media is state or government controlled. However, times are changing, and a recent study in South Africa showed that it now has over one hundred and fifty community radio stations broadcasting today. Considering back in 1985 where an estimated 10 independent community radio stations existed in the whole of Africa, there has been a monumental shift.
Growing an Information Infrastructure
The policy in Africa at present is to accelerate development in rural communities by using radio and newer technologies to pass on information. An agency that is directly connected to this program is NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development).NEPAD is aware the good communications and in particular broadcasting can help to foster community trading and improve the chances of national integration. And when ordinary people can communicate with each other it helps to stabilize democracy.
Paying the Price
One of the biggest problems of setting up communication networks is the cost, and this is accentuated in places like Africa where the country is so vast. Distances between communities can be hundreds of miles, and the communities small.These small remote communities rarely have electricity, and so telephones and computers are not an option. But setting up a radio station is relatively inexpensive, and the receivers can be run on batteries or solar power as the wattage used to operate them is very minimal. Thus, in Africa, radio is by far the most popular mass media medium throughout the country. It has been estimated that for every five people there is a radio, compare this to one phone for a hundred people.
Operating Radio Stations is Cheap
A community radio station can be really cheap to operate, and the beauty of radio programs are that they are cheap to create and cheap to consume. This is really important in communities that have high illiteracy rates, and where the local people only speak indigenous languages. This does not matter, as listening to, or presenting a radio program it is not necessary to be able to read or write. Radio broadcasts can only go so far, and to educate rural communities in physical things like farming or building then feet on the ground are also needed. Therefore, a combination of radio and aid workers is the best policy. We continue our blog on community radio and the developing world in part two.