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Community Media: Theory & Practice, Vol. 5 - 1998, No. 2

, pages: 7-19

This article is based upon extensive research of the BBC Radio Ulster daily phone-in programme, Talkback. The wider research is investigating the role of phone-in programmes as a contemporary public sphere for democratic debate. This article places the Talkback phone- ins within the specific context of a contested society within which two “publics” seek to assert their separate identities. The relationship between on-air public talk and official political talks is considered. The socio-political functions of phone-in talk are considered empirically (within the confines of limited space) and it is argued theoretically that talk on Talkback is addressed to one of three publics: ones own public; the divided public; and the imagined consensual public (which is addressed mainly by the BBC.)

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, pages: 21-34

This study draws on the participatory political philosophy of Benjamin Barber to assess the contribution of public access cable television to political communication in the United States. In contrast to neo-liberal political theory which views government-mandated media access as infringing on the speech rights of media owners, Barber’s participatory democratic theory positions direct and widespread access to the media as a vital aspect of democratic processes. Barber puts forward a set of concepts which describe the various functions of democratic “talk” and which provide a theoretical framework for understanding some of the ways in which access television functions as a political communication resource. Using interviews and original source materials, the study examines the political uses of access television by radical media projects, a type of media seldom granted access to commercial or public television. In their attempts to organise and empower communities that have been under represented or excluded from mainstream political discussions and debates, these projects perform many of the functions Barber attributes to democratic “talk.” Conclusions drawn from the study suggest that access television hosts a range of democratic speech which is largely absent from professional media industries and which merits the support and protection of democratic states.

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, , pages: 35-48

This article explores two of the central theoretical perspectives for promoting and understanding community-building initiatives in cyberspace. One is referred to as “virtual democracy” and contains reference to many of the key concepts taken from classical democratic theory: universal access to information, participation in public debate and political decision-making, empowerment and equality of citizenry. The other perspective, urban entrepreneurialism, is based on an analysis of late capitalism and the place of consumption in determination of self, culture and society. Proponents of this second perspective see possibilities for urban regeneration and economic renewal through emphasis on locally-situated entrepreneurialism operating within a global market. A case study of community-building in cyberspace currently being compiled - the Craigmiller Community Information Service (CCIS) Network in Edinburgh, Scotland - is sketched in the remainder of the article. Although the case clearly reflects aspects of these two perspectives in its stated objectives, limited evidence is found among user groups in the housing estate expressing value for and use of network services. In spite of this, both users and network spokesmen remain optimistic that the initiative will eventually contribute to both entrepreneurial and community-building aspirations shared for the Craigmiller housing estate.

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, , pages: 49-60

This article charts and analyzes the place of community radio among rural-based Native Alaskans. The introduction of community radio received major financial support during the War on Poverty in the 1960s, but since has had to struggle and compromise on principles of control for existence. One of the outcomes of this struggle was increasing cultural self- awareness and willingness to engage in collective actions by Native Alaskans. The analysis of this development leans on Carey’s notion of a ritual view of communication, and the authors contend, in conclusion, that the cultural integrity of Native peoples in Alaska requires restoration of local control over community radio.

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, pages: 61-71

In the context of internationalisation of audio-visual media, standardisation of exchanges and contents is also accompanied by a re-strengthening of local cultures. The claims for cultural and linguistic idiosyncrasies are directly linked to the development of regional television. Like in many other European regions, in Brittany (France), all the prerequisites seem fulfilled to launch a channel dedicated to the promotion of Breton culture and language. However, many uncertainties weigh on such a project. The size of the regional market may, of course, be an obstacle to financial viability. But, above all, the notion of identity is quite problematic in the construction of a regional media space: does it constitute a sufficiently solid and homogeneous base - from a sociological, cultural and linguistic point of view - to construct original television programming models which reflect the variety of social realities and cultural constructions?

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, pages: 73-85

This article explores how women's community radio can contribute to a “feminist public sphere” and serve as a tool for women's empowerment through the media. Compared to film, TV and newspapers, radio is a relatively under researched and under valued area of the media. An extension of this situation is the paucity of theoretical and empirical studies regarding women and radio. The purpose of this article is to contribute to a theory of women’s radio and its relation to practice. Employing feminist “readings” of Habermas' theory of the public sphere, it is possible to develop a concept of a women's or feminist public sphere in relation to women’s community radio. This article discusses whether and how this is emerging through the opportunities that women have in terms of access, training and development in community radio. With empirical data from women's radio stations and projects in different parts of Europe, radio as a potential “feminist public sphere” is explored, and a foundation laid for a further grounding of an understanding of how alternative media can be a tool for women's empowerment.

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, pages: 87-103

This article charts the historical development of community radio in the United States, and makes comparisons with the development of stations in Europe. Parallels are noted and illustrated from both the author’s personal experience and academic analysis. Two typologies are proposed for understanding this development in which key aspects of stations are used for comparing stations in the mid-1970s to those in the late 1990s. The article ends with formulation of a number of issues which should be placed high on the research agenda, and a plea for consideration of the US model of listener-sponsorship as a viable “third way” for community radio initiatives in the 21st century.

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, , pages: 105-109

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