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World Radio Day: Liberia Community Radio Research

2012 February 16
radio gbarpola in liberia

Owner/manager of Radio Gbarpola in Liberia.

By Audra Gustin

In honour of World Radio Day this month, The Soul Beat newletter highlights the role of SFCG in using radio in Africa’s social development, from peacebuilding to civic education to community radio research.

As the last part of a three-piece series, the focus today will be on SFCG’s research on community radio station sustainability and interaction with communities in five Liberian towns.

Community radio station has long been considered a tool in building participatory democracy in areas lacking stable energy and basic literacy. However, there is little research on how this tool can best be used.

In Liberia, community radio stations have flourished, yet they still are not full partners in the democratic development process. SFCG research indicates that there are multiple reasons for this.

Development has often focused on traditional press or urban-based radio stations, while the myth of community radio’s unsustainability hinders partnership efforts.

SFCG found that national development funding had a stronger impact on broadcasting for the ‘public good’ among community stations versus more commercial counterparts. Research indicated that local authorities needed to know more about how community radio can play a role in development.

As to unsustainability, SFCG found that all interviewed stations had a measure of sustainability, most effectively attained by creating strong community ownership. These community radio stations have around 75% of locally produced programs, during which they address community issues such as reintegration of ex-combatants, missing persons and collecting local histories. This depth of local programming then leads communities to help with station funding and maintenance.

The report ended with three suggestions: increasing community outreach activities and feedback, promoting sharing models and possibly a handbook of sustainable practice, and strengthening advocacy networks.

To read The Soul Beat’s full summary, check it out here.

Audra Gustin, a student of intercultural communication, is finishing her M.A. in International Communication from American University. She is currently an intern with SFCG’s Communications Department in Washington, DC.

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