Engaging Audiences, fostering community

enadmin, 19th November 2011

Today’s Community Engagement Forum was a meeting of minds; a collection of representatives from stations all around Australia, where sharing experiences about engaging your community was the perogative.
Convened by Greg Adkins, of 3JOY in Melbourne, the session covered topics ranging from the problems community broadcasters face in trying to engage with their audiences to how stations can address the needs of their listeners and foster communities through events and training.

Many of the session attendees agreed that getting people from their communities to participate by volunteering or providing local and relevant content was particularly difficult, as many were unsure of how to measure their influence.

It was agreed that community radio stations need to be more active in engaging their communities by hosting events and facilitating communication, rather than being passive.

It was also suggested that community radio stations need to consider the physical aspect of their stations in order to provide spaces, whether on-site or in the community, where people can contribute, hang out, and be educated at the same time.

Jonathan Brown, of SYN in Melbourne, discussed the importance of face-to-face communication and how stations can benefit from sharing values with their local communities.

“Shared passion for social change brings communities together” he said, “Community broadcasting is intrinsically linked to social change; we need to be proud of this”.

Rather than simply engaging with the community, stations should be seeking to create partnerships with their volunteers, listeners, and the wider local communities.

When connecting with youth audiences, particularly at small or rural stations, the focus needs to be on training and giving them the skills and independence they need to produce their own content, as well as helping them connect with older volunteers and presenters.

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Volunteers are an important part of the community broadcasting sector, with 22,000 individuals across Australian giving time to their local station. Involving volunteers can help you connect with and involve the local community in your station, and their contributions in a huge variety of roles offer invaluable support to community radio stations.


The internet provides a means for non-professional media-makers to produce and publish their own video and audio content, as community television and radio have done for several decades. While the web seems to exemplify the principles of media access and diversity championed by the community media sector, it also raises challenges for broadcast community media participants and their online equivalents, not least being the co-opting of the term ‘community media’ by large commercial interests. A symposium held in Melbourne by Open Spectrum Australia (‘Quality/Control’, State Library of Victoria, Oct 2008) brought together people with a wide range of community media experience to discuss this and other issues, particularly the possibilities for greater cooperation between broadcast and online community media participants.

This paper draws on participant contributions at the symposium to explore the relationship between broadcast and online community media. Despite shared values, we identify different, and possibly incompatible, cultures within the two groups. We argue that this disjoint stems from two different systems of control or validation (licensing and networks), as well as producer-centered accounts of community media that are out of sync with the contemporary media environment. Instead, we propose that theory and practice begin to address issues of consumption in relation to community media, including identification, navigation and the notion of ethical choice.


Provide a platform for the discussion of local issues and focus on community, not partisan politics.