Community Radio in Political Theory and Development Practice


While to political theorists in the United States ‘community radio’ may seem a quaint holdover of the democratization movements of the 1960s, community radio has been an important tool in development contexts for decades. In this paper I investigate how community radio is conceptualized within and outside of the development frame, as a solution to development problems, as part of development projects communication strategy, and as a tool for increasing democratic political participation in development projects. I want to show that community radio is an essential tool of democratization and democracy outside of the development frame. To do so, I will bring out the conceptual and structural dimensions of community radio through examples of existing community radios, both those which are independently created and those which have been created as development projects. These structural and conceptual elements provide community radio the potential to realize the goals of development practice while avoiding characteristic pitfalls. These ‘pitfalls’ of development are also pitfalls of democratization and democracy in existing democratic states, and include: depoliticization, limited participation, particularly of marginalized groups.

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