this is really about Empowerment. Traditionally our understanding of radio has been that it is a one-way channel of communication. But radio has been increasingly effective where the community it serves is involved or participates. This participatory role has evolved as the dynamics of communication have become better understood.
The world is becoming increasingly interactive. Radio and TV stations are no longer those remote places of power and influence but are now more easily accessible and welcoming. Trends are leading us to a more participatory world which demands that we become much more relational and organic in our programming strategy.
The section on counselling focused on one specific aspect of interaction. But it has wider application. Not least of these is by encouraging the listener to participate in our programs.
Participatory program techniques say to the listener that he is important and that his opinions are both valued and heard. Experience in successful health promotion communication projects has shown that communities respond well to being able to participate in the planning, preparation and production of programs.
Often, this is done by speaking to listeners directly about their needs and circumstances. In some instances this has meant taking production equipment into the field and producing programs there with listeners contributing. Listeners can be encouraged to send in their stories, poems or other items as digital files, on cassette — or by letter or e-mail. We have learnt something quite profound when we have learnt to maximise the use of radio to meet listeners' needs in relevant ways, even at the expense of reduction in technical quality. We give listeners a voice by providing feedback to enhance dialogue and understanding.
Phone-in programs (talk-back) are very popular, and can also provide this dynamic in very significant ways. Phone-in presenters need unique skills and special training. In some countries where anonymity is preferred listeners choose to send text messages.
It is all part of the process of making ourselves as presenters vulnerable — and accountable — for what we say and do. We are an alternative for our listeners and our concern is for the whole person. The process of interaction with our listeners demands our constant attention. Electronic communication inter-activity has become a way of life for many thanks to the rapid development and influence of the Internet. Broadcasters are similarly expected to provide it. But the way we do our programming needs to change too as presenters become much more vulnerable and "real" to their listeners. Revealing their daily personal struggles tends to endear them to their listeners when they see they are "ordinary" people too.
Last updated 7 Dec 2010
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