Community radio is an innovative radio service providing a third model of community broadcasting as well as commercial and public radio. Community radios serve large communities and geographical regions of special interest. They bring communities together through the shared creative effort to produce and share information, and by extension, music and entertainment. As a solution to the present day’s ever-increasing lack of exposure to diverse programming, community radio offers a unique service by bringing communities together.
A few years ago, community radio began as a solution to the lack of programming options for rural, remote and under-served communities. The first community radio shows started out at KPCC, the University of California’s campus radio station. Over the past couple of decades community radio has gained momentum and the reputation of being one of the best sources of community-based programming. In the last five years, many new small community radio stations have been started as an outgrowth of the original radio programs. Many of these newer radio stations focus on independent music, cultural programming, or religious oriented programming.
The increased focus on community radio reflects on our society as a whole. It speaks to our social consciousness and commitment to community building. Many feminist radio organisations have expressed support for this innovative broadcasting model. There are several factors that have contributed to the success of this new genre of broadcasting, and some of those include:
Lack of communication options: Most people living in most parts of the country do not have regular access to traditional broadcasting media. This includes broadcast television and radio. Even when community radio programmes broadcast on community events and happenings, most people do not hear about them. Those who may be able to hear the programme are usually too far away and too busy to make time for the programme. Radio can only reach so far away, whereas community participation and involvement programmes reach hundreds and thousands of people within a day’s worth.
Lack of availability of quality programming: This is perhaps the most popular reason for the success of community radio programmes. Programs broadcast by many other channels fail to gain the attention of their audiences because they are poor quality or inappropriate for their communities. Most communities would prefer to broadcast programmes that focus on issues that affect their everyday lives. For example, most rural communities do not watch comedy programs or talk shows. Yet these kinds of programmes would greatly benefit their residents if they were made available.
Lack of quality programming: Most radio stations fail to reach out to their communities because they do not cater to the needs of their target audience. As a result, many ordinary consumers do not choose this kind of radio station. If this continues, there will be no reason for radio producers to continue creating quality social programmes. The best option for such a producer is to start a community radio station that will not only give importance and relevance to issues affecting its local communities, but also give a platform for creative people to express themselves and to contribute towards social progress and development.