we cannot separate radio from community. Radio programming, used in the right way, encourages community and models it to our listeners.
How we do this may take on various forms depending on the circumstances under which we broadcast.
There are primarily two ways:
1. By engaging with our community on the ground
2. By modelling to our listeners how we can get along together even though we may have differences and disagreements.
Let us look at the first of these..
Radio is being shown today as an effective tool for engaging the community in addressing the social issues that many face. It promotes partnerships that include community members, agencies and the station itself. By so doing listeners become active components in the process of change. In this model we no longer see listeners as passive consumers of information, but as active participants - or "listener-learners".
This is quite a departure from the traditional understanding of state or commercial radio establishments and networks. These basically keep the programming initiative in the hands of the wealthy and influential.
Neither is it what we traditionally know as "community radio". In this community-centred model the station actually provides training for members of the community to produce their own program content. In effect the station "gives away the microphone". By so doing the community learns from the programs and this informs the community's decision-making process. You can find a very useful explanation of Community-Centred Radio on the HCR web-site.
This is a powerful model and there are now several examples on file of how this approach has been implemented to great effect across a wide variety of contexts in several countries.
Now let's look at the second way which applies best in situations where the station takes a more overt Christian stance...
Most Christian radio stations do not align themselves strictly with a particular denomination. They are therefore already in the process of working across the denominational spectrum. Because of this Christians from a wide variety of denominations can all look to the station and say "this is our station". Radio has a unifying effect among believers.
But how do we cope with shades of belief or denominational distinctives? When it comes to specific programs in which contradictory views might be expressed it is clear that we need to have good policies and procedures in place. Radio stations can play a key role in turning disagreements into positive exploration of the differences.
But we can do more. By demonstrating our ability to function together in community we validate our message to the wider world. We can broadcast programs that provide news and information about other Christian groups. We can enter into partnership with organisations to help them extend their ministry or achieve their goals. For example, we may broadcast programs that support the field-work of a Christian community development agency. We might also air distance-education programs that help a Bible seminary be more effective by using radio to reach students spread far and wide. To demonstrate unity on air we could get people together in the studio and model for our listener how as fellow believers we can work together in spite of international and interdenominational differences. Another outcome of this is to reduce misunderstanding about the relationship between radio and the Church and disarm accusations of radio being isolated from the Church.
Interdev is a Christian organisation that took upon itself the responsibility of helping to forge partnerships among various Christian agencies with a shared interest. Now its founder, Phill Butler, has written a classic on the subject - Well Connected. FEBC and Feba have been involved in several such partnerships, collaborating with non-radio agencies in a co-ordinated strategy. The process has often been lengthy because of a lot of history that has to be worked through. The various agencies and elements have to feel their need for each other. It has not been without pain, but where they have succeeded, these partnerships have been rewarding. They have been driven by the reality that, as they work together with a common purpose, they can be more effective in ministry and better stewards of resources.
(Readers may also be interested in the Goldmine article by Phill Butler - Church, Radio and Community
Last updated 15 Dec 2010
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