Community Participation in Australian Community Broadcasting: A Comparative Study of Rural, Regional and Remote Radio

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Meadows, Michael
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Forde, Susan
O'Regan, Tom
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Date
2004
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Abstract

This study investigates the relationship between media and democracy with a particular focus on Australian community broadcasting. I put forward the thesis that the value and purpose of community broadcasting are located in its community development function, rather than in its ability to transmit alternative information. This suggests that an analysis should emphasise community rather than media. Community development promotes the empowerment of ordinary people so that they can confidently participate in management and decision-making - that is, the procedures and norms that underpin democratic practices. In the case of community media, the relationship between democracy and media is located primarily in its volunteers. -- To understand this relationship, I link together concepts of the public sphere and social capital. The public sphere is understood as multiple and diverse and linked to other publics via the web of relationships forged among people with shared interests and norms. I argue that a community public sphere should be understood as a cultural resource and managed as a common property. The public sphere is thus conceived to have a more or less porous boundary that serves to regulate membership. Understood as a bounded domain, the public sphere can be analysed in terms of its ideological structure, its management practices and its alliances with other publics. This approach also allows for a comparison with other similar public spheres. -- The study identifies two main ideological constellations that have shaped the development of Australian community broadcasting - professionalism and community development, with the former gaining prominence as the sector expands into rural and regional communities. The ascendancy of professional and quasi-commercial practices is of concern as it can undermine the community development potential of community broadcasting, a function that appears to be little understood and one which has attracted little research. -- The study presents a case study of three regional and remote rural community radio stations and compares them from a social capital perspective. Social capital is a framework for understanding the relationship between the individual and the community and explores this relationship in terms of participation in networks, reciprocal benefits among groups and individuals and the nature of active participation. Demographic and organisational structures of the three stations are also compared. By taking this approach, each station's capacity for community development and empowerment is addressed. -- The results of the fieldwork reveal that the success of a community radio station is related to 'community spirit' and demographic structure. They reveal that the community radio station in the smallest community with the lowest per capita income was best able to meet the needs of its community and its volunteers.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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School of Arts, Media and Culture
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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.
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Subject
Australia
Australian
community radio
community broadcasting
rural
regional
remote
communities
democracy
democratic
mass media
community development
volunteer
volunteers
voluntary
voluntarism
news
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