A COMPILATION OF COMMUNITY RADIO BENEFITS
“In the increasingly corporate world of radio, low-power FM isn't about how far your signal reaches but how near.” – Laurie Kelliher
The dynamics and solidarity of community are impossible to achieve and maintain without the use of effective communication. Interaction, discussion and cooperation are fundamental pieces of building and sustaining lively communities. Instantaneous communication across the globe is a common, undeniably beneficial part of contemporary society, but as we communicate instantaneously with large external masses, how do we bridge existing gaps within our own communities? Internal focuses on our communities enable us to determine how services, volunteer opportunities and further socioeconomic factors are impacting individuals in a particular community. An event that leads to internal focuses on a community is a special, participatory community media event where the voices of residents in a community come together to generate their own broadcast, in their own space, in their own words.
The broadcast is created entirely in the community through typically taking place in a local building such as a community center or a school, is staffed and facilitated by local volunteers, is heard in the homes of the community and perhaps most meaningfully is the utilization of local concerns, skills, talents and discussions that generate the on-air programming. It becomes exclusively that community’s raw, unedited media. It allows for an atmosphere of pure community energy to be created and shared. As McKee (2011) says in her “Benefits of Community Radio and Participatory Communications to Rural Regions in Newfoundland and Labrador,” “Participatory communications such as community radio can energize rural communities.” The familiar voices of those in the community come together to present and distribute information, and engaged listeners adhere to the excitement and locally orientated conversation. The broadcast can spark feelings of belonging and community in their listeners, who may subsequently feel a pride of place and want to become involved in their community. Feelings of identity and belonging in rural communities are fundamental components of sustainability.
Community radio stations, both temporary and permanent, have found that facilitators are intergenerational. A neighborhood radio station in Indiana reports that “The station’s youngest deejay is 10, the oldest 72” (Kelliher, 2003). When the community of Branch, Newfoundland and Labrador (pictured above) hosted a temporary community radio event it found that many volunteers, especially youth, were tremendously enthusiastic to participate in many capacities. The coming together of varying age groups allows for the maximum exchange of cultural material and also attracts varying audience age groups.
The varying ages bring varying themes and programming ideas to the station. With no specific governmental schedules or corporate restrictions, what is broadcasted is original, relevant to that community and wide-ranging. As Anita Best, with VOBB community radio in Newfoundland and Labrador discusses “Community radio is like having a blank sheet of paper that everyone can write their ideas on,” (McKee, 2011). Additionally, when community radio is used in school settings it can serve as both a volunteer opportunity and skill building activity for adolescents.
Given that there are no precise limitations, the setting of community radio is often a very relaxed one. Significant discussions on community concerns for example may take place with participants seated around a kitchen table, drinking tea, in the middle of a community center or school library, with a continual flow of individuals entering and leaving the space. This easy-going atmosphere can relieve the anxiety felt by speaking to a crowd.
When multiple communities or groups of people in a region become involved in a collective broadcast, it functions as a medium for discussion and collaboration. Cooperation between communities is vital to sustainability and the sharing of ideas and initiatives can enhance the performances of volunteers and community service workers. In many cases, discussions can ultimately lead to strategies being implemented for the benefit and sustainability of a community.
“Community radio is 90% about community, 10% about radio.” – Zane Ibraham.
Kelliher, L. (2003). High Intensity, Law Power Radio: Small neighborhood stations run by local organizations reflect a growing national appetite for community. Columbia Journalism Review, October 15, 2003. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/story/16983/high_intensity_low_power_radio
McKee, E. (2011). Benefits of Community Radio and Participatory Communications to Rural Regions of Newfoundland and Labrador. Regional Communication for Sustainability Initiative, July, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.ryakuga.ca/pdf/mckeereport.pdf