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Community radio and the notion of value: A divergent and contested theoretical terrain

By S. Order


The community radio sector in Australia is under-funded and under-resourced. Many of the 270-plus stations in Australia (CBAA 2012) struggle to maintain long-term viability and manage their day-to-day financial operations. Practitioners in the sector use a range of strategies to attract funding; however, there are no magic formulas for keeping their heads above water. Approximately 10 per cent of funding comes from government grants (Forde at al 2002: 98–99), most of which are one-off grants for specific projects. If the value of a community radio station could be determined, then surely it would be easier to attract funding from government or other sources. In this paper I examine the concept of value in the context of the community radio station. I explain why the assessment of value is important. Since the value of community radio is a divergent and contested theoretical terrain, a clearer understanding of value would most likely enable stations to attract more funding. I explore the notion of value in relation to community radio through four theoretical lenses. The first lens is the lens of definitions, where the value of community radio can be determined by how it is defined. As a medium, community radio can sit under various umbrella „alternative media‟–type definitions. The definitions can also be entwined with notions of value, obfuscating the theoretical territory. The second lens is the lens of oppositional power. Community radio as a type of alternative media has long been associated with „oppositional‟ stances to mainstream media themes. The value of this oppositional power is questionable and may be overstated. The third lens is the lens of social power. Community radio as alternative media has the potential to empower participants personally or politically. The fourth lens is the lens of participation in media production, where community radio encourages participation in media content production and administration

Year: 2012
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