International radio stations: tools for mobilizing the general public in full transformation

The Conversation – Throughout the world, political authorities have long held a monopoly on local and national radio stations as well as international radio stations, which enabled them to convey the desired messages to their own populations, but also to those of foreign countries to which their radios were broadcasting.

Our recent research shows that this old model is now largely outdated.

The destatization of the radio and its internationalization thanks to its digitization/webification have modified the communicational balance of power.

Today there are three types of mobilization radio stations. THE state mobilization radio stations (REM) initially lost ground against the civil mobilization radio stations) (RCM, which have become, thanks to the Internet, accessible worldwide, thus changing into international civil radio stations (RCMI). These three types of radio stations coexist today in a media landscape that no longer has much to do with that of twenty years ago.

The national monopolies of state mobilization radios (REM) during international wars

Radio was a political issue from the outset: let us cite the talks of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the “white” and “black” radio stations during the “phoney war” – which initiated the “war on the airwaves” -, the instructions to resistance fighters broadcast by “Radio London”…

During the Cold War (and until today for some radios), the Allies settled on the airwaves to continue their heteronomic work (i.e. aiming to imbue listeners with political, social laws/norms and cultural). For example, the American government multiplied the stations: Voice of America, RIAS (Radio in the American Sector, mainly oriented towards East Germany), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberté and Radio Free Asia, Azadi (intended for Afghanistan) or Farda (broadcasting in Farsi to Iran)…

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New communication from Radio Farda, produced by the Brand Real agency in 2011. Click to zoom.

According to researcher Anne-Chantal Lepeuple, all these radio stations aimed to promote the dissemination of liberal ideas among the peoples of the targeted countries, by implementing a “gradual erosion policy” of the regimes in place.

Today, RFE/RL broadcasts in 27 languages ​​and in 23 countries “where freedom of the press is threatened and where disinformation is omnipresent”. It plays its role of “substitute radio”, according to Jacques Sémelin’s expression designating radio stations which replace local radio stations and are distinguished from “representative radio stations” – those which promote the States which finance them, following the example from the BBC, Deutsche Welle or RFI.

The appearance of civil mobilization radio stations after the end of audiovisual monopolies

The demonopolization of European REMs (in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Belgium, etc.) now forces them to coexist with civil mobilization radio stations (RCM), even if the action of the latter is often limited to a local radius.

Based on different strategies, RCMs can carry out two types of “proximity radiophony”:

  • The “heteronomous” RCMs (associative, trade union and political), sometimes wanting to be (counter-informational), can be polemical, revolutionary (one thinks of the cases of Irish, Bolshevik, Cuban, Portuguese radio stations) and even genocidal (as in the well-known case of Radio Mille Collines in Rwanda). Some threaten the powers in place, with direct consequences for their journalists. Very recently, a Franco-Algerian journalist had to flee to Tunisia to escape prison, a few weeks after the seizure of her radio and the arrest of its founder. A Cameroonian journalist, who denounced corruption on the air, was found dead in January 2023, two years after the death in custody of one of his colleagues.
  • Other RCMs practice “autonomous” radio broadcasting: they do not aim to convince listeners to adhere to certain values ​​or ideas but to disseminate information of interest to specific categories of the population. These are community stations (diasporic as well as religious or linguistic), but also local stations (broadcasting at the level of the district, the city or the region) and, also, educational stations (whether they whether school, student), cultural, cooperative or interactive). Two examples of their action, among many others: in Burkina Faso, these RCMs helped inform their listeners about Covid-19. In Afghanistan, a radio is used in seven provinces to continue to teach (in Dari in the morning, and in Pashto in the afternoon) to young girls, while they are banned from school by the Taliban.
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“Webification” and the emergence of civilian radio stations for international mobilization

Webification has multiplied the number of international radios, because each radio automatically becomes one as soon as it is broadcast on the web.

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Source : The Conversation

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