February 13: World Radio Day (+ Photos)

The potential of community radio. Perpetuity or Apocalypse

Por Lázaro David Najarro Pujol

Feb, 2021.- The potentialities  of the community service of radio broadcasting have been demonstrated since the KDKA station in Pittsburg began broadcasting news on a regular basis in 1920. But the radio in this 21st century faces a new challenge with the development of new technologies.

In Latin America, hundreds of stations operate in the community.

José Ignacio López Vigil defines community radio as a promoter of citizen participation and defender of their interests or: «… when it responds to the tastes of the majority and makes good humor and hope his first proposal; when you report truthfully; when cultural diversity is encouraged; when the woman is the protagonist of the communication and it is not a simple decorative voice or an advertising claim; That is a community radio ».

There is consensus that «community radio is a radio transmission station that has been created with the intention of favoring a community or population nucleus, whose interests are the development of its community.»

Furthermore, community stations can be located both in isolated rural areas and in the heart of the world’s largest cities.

These media have had many names among theorists of various latitudes: «alternative», «participatory», «popular», «marginal», «radical», «local», «community», «access» designations whose differences, at the discretion by José Manuel Ramos R. in his article: Community radio in Mexico: lessons learned and keys for the future, they are not only nominal but also respond to different theoretical and practical approaches assumed over time.

«The current trend is to overcome the dichotomies that for a long time dominated the theory and practice of this type of media, when its central mission was defined in opposition to the hegemonic media, to give way to the conviction that they favor the construction of citizenship, understood not as a set of rights and duties of individuals, but as the exercise of a «daily politics» that takes place in the different dimensions of life ».

In Latin America, community radio emerged with the objective of promoting access to information and communication services, for traditionally excluded populations and for people with disabilities; It was promoted to stimulate cultural changes in the general population and promote a vision that these sectors are an integral and constant part of all educational, economic and social processes in the region.

Community radio is oriented to satisfy the interests and communication needs of the municipality or district; broadcast news and information on the area covered by coverage, with a high participation of its inhabitants. Radio listeners become the main protagonists and promoters of the social, cultural, political and economic development of the area and the country.

In many countries in the area, especially in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, to name a few, their governments strive to support the implementation of new technologies, to facilitate access to information and communication for people with disabilities or marginalized people. . They have the purpose of promoting social and Latin American integration, facilitating opportunities and favoring changes in people’s «meanings of life». There has even emerged an explosion of radio stations linked to indigenous organizations in Mexico and other countries, whose aims are to achieve (with a short, through or long-term perspective) that people and groups think, feel, experience and reflect on new things in their life. «Particularly in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, many radio stations of this type have emerged. Some maintain a profile with an emphasis on linguistic and cultural revitalization, while others present a more radical character. Although in Mexico, according to José Manuel Ramos R:

«Current legislation does not accommodate this model and makes only one central distinction:» concessions «for the private sector and» permits «, without the right to commercialize airtime. Great privileges have been given to the commercial sector, while the «permit holder» is made up almost exclusively of stations linked to universities and government agencies and represents less than 20 percent of all stations.

“However, a little over a decade ago, radio stations began to emerge due to civil society initiatives, most of them outside the law, which today make up an emerging phenomenon that must be documented and studied. Without having precision in the data, it is estimated in more than a hundred this type of initiatives throughout the country.

Only in Cuba, with a great tradition in this field and a pioneer in the transmission of sound signals within the Latin American context (Félix B. Caignet premiered, in 1948, through the CMQ circuit his famous novel El Derecho de Nacer), there is a network of an international station, six national, 18 provincial, 71 municipal plants, the latter represent 74 percent of the total of these media in the Greater Antilles, including a small station in Cocodrilo, in the southwest of the Isle of Youth , in which 500 inhabitants reside, originating or descendants of the Caribbean, mainly from Grand Cayman, in which content generated by and for the same population is also broadcast.

This group consolidates the link with the audience and facilitates human interaction and knowledge and is distinguished by its role in social development.

I support the hypothesis that community radio is the only mass media that can penetrate the most remote homes on the planet… «Radio calls for modernity not only in technology, but also in its discourse, and supported by scientific and technical advances, it must be more creative, closer to the listener’s claim, and must wisely reflect the values ​​of a unique, supportive, fraternal and above all heroic  society.

I have the experience , for many years, in the radio station Radio Santa Cruz, which emerged on May 1, 1968 (it initially responded to the names of Radio Primero de Mayo and Radio Brisas del Mar), which became a local event and that had the great protagonism of the population. The inhabitants donated or manufactured equipment, records and other material resources. (At that time we did not imagine that a technology would emerge that would be called INTERNET).

The founding staff worked voluntarily and unconditionally so that the «clandestine» signal remained on the air, with few resources and terrible technical condition, until it became what this medium is today.

In the Cuba, the radio (not exempt from the necessary improvement), has the mission – in addition to informing, educating and recreating – of being a reflection of daily life, carrier of truth, stimulator of the reflection of listeners, consolidator of Cubanness and preserver of traditions and knowledge of historical and cultural paradigms, both national and local. It is the role of radio in Cuba, as Fidel Castro expressed in a dialogue with Ignacio Ramonet, to sow values ​​in the souls of men, in the intelligence and in the hearts of human beings.

Although community radio in Latin America has gone through various obstacles – such as the emergence of neoliberal policies, the complacency of governments to the empire’s efforts and the increase in poverty – the democratic changes that have originated in the region in recent years They allow reversing the stagnation or decline of these media and the emergence of new social actors.

Those of us who have the responsibility —pedagogues, communicators and technologists— to defend this wonderful, effective and useful project, must take advantage of and face the challenge of the great possibilities that new technologies offer us and put them at the service of the masses, attending, for your position, to new realities, new audiences. (Fortunately, millions of intellectuals do not necessarily belong to an exploiting and wealthy class).

New technologies provide new accesses and scopes. I reaffirm the meaning of a phrase uttered many years ago by Orson Welles: «radio is the largest screen in the world.» I agree with the Mexican José Manuel Ramos R., that when a new communication technology appears, it does not displace the previous ones, but rather enhances it, as long as the creativity of media professionals is highlighted.

Perhaps the digital revolution is more important than the invention of the printing press, since an image, a text and a sound that is disseminated on the Internet reaches, instantaneously, anywhere on the planet, affirmed Ignacio Ramonet, general director of Le Monde Doplomatique. Community radio «[…] is incorporated into a synergistic process in which its potentialities are increased. […] The challenge is to give a clear intentionality to the potential benefits of technological convergence ”.

Dr. Raúl Garcés, listed five alarm points in global broadcasting that we will synthesize:

– «An economic one, associated with drastic budget cuts in a scenario of a decrease in the number of listeners and, therefore, in financing programming for advertising. The proliferation of stations that, far from generating information with their own resources, increasingly depend on oligopoly news consortia is an obvious reality.

-A technological alarm, derived from the digital revolution of sound and the expansion of radio services through the Internet. Undoubtedly, the use of computers in the production and transmission of radio messages has made it possible to significantly improve the quality of the broadcast signal, expand the potential of radio companies in line with the current evolution of the media and streamline the production process of preparing news, taking advantage of the advantages offered by non-linear editing. But such advances, which occurred in an extremely short historical period of time, demand from radio operators new skills in their professional training and a change of mentality in the logics that traditionally served to conceive and structure radio programming.

-An intellectual alarm, accentuated […] by the generalized imposition of commercial patterns more destined to maximize the profits of the media, than to provide them with a true cultural sense. In an international context marked by the infotainment boom, ¬ the triumph of  television claimed in spaces like Big Brother, or the resurrection of yellow journalism in tabloids in the style of those published by William Randolph Hearst at the end of the 19th century, would be naive Pretend exceptional behavior on the radio.

-An investigative alarm, verified in the small number of studies on radio available, when compared with the vast volume of media investigations generated in the world today. Issues such as the professional training of journalists, the configuration of new media scenarios in the environment of the current digital revolution, or the effects of television on certain types of audiences – just to mention a few – appear developed much more frequently in Ibero-American magazines of communication, than those concerning the development of radio.

-An occupational alarm, verified in the insufficient number of professionals that the radio generally has to carry out the bulk of its projects.

In the Cuban case, for example, although the Faculty of Communication of the University of Havana and other similar centers graduate dozens of journalists and social communicators every year, the reality indicates that few go to the stations.

Only with creativity can we prevent radio from dying: «The need to execute it well, conscientiously, with love and pride, because radio is creativity, imagination, understanding, service and love of humanity.»

In the years to come, radio must be above all … «more human, more authentic, more grandiose, because when a radio receiver is turned on a mind is activated, an imagination is excited, a spirit is made to vibrate» or as categorically predicts the Spanish Ángel Faus Belau:

“Radio, radio operators, your company and your people suffer from lethal boredom, total disinterest in the product, the programming, the content and the audience.

Radio is starving from its own research and science, disinherited from its creators, abandoned from its creators, lean on inventors and chained by the bottom line. We are facing the expiration of a system and of some historical formulas of narration, content, programming and radio concept ».

Without ceasing to attend to the alarm points, I am among those who support and defend that the radio will be and should be the medium of this time and of all times and not of those who are approaching their Apocalypse. But in order to achieve the immortality of radio, it is essential to incorporate into it the potentialities offered by new technologies and, as colleague Raúl Garcés also expresses, “a radical transformation is achieved in the narrative discourses of the medium and in many of the professional practices of its makers ».

Radio will transcend if we are able to turn information into a highly creative and interesting communicative product.

 



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