Jon Bisset visiting 8CCC

On the road

Jon Bisset, 29th June 2016
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Over the last few months, I've had the pleasure and privilege of visiting nearly 50 stations around the country. 

Visiting with station managers and committees and getting in to their studios reminded me over and over again what we're all here for. Community radio plays such an important role. 

For those involved in stations themselves, there is a unique opportunity for personal expression and community involvement through media making, the chance to learn new skills, and to make new friends and ties with people that you mightn't have otherwise. 

Stations do some remarkable things. Given my love of (addiction to?) coffee, it was fascinating to hear how 8CCC is engaging with their local community each Saturday through partnering with a local bakery and operating a cafe from their shop front studio thereby generating revenue for their station. 

I also visited CAAMA last week and I’m always excited to see the important role played by remote Indigenous media in maintaining language and culture and providing tools for self-representation and community development.

For listeners, locally created programs sharing local stories and specialist content are key. So many voices are heard on air that simply wouldn't be otherwise, carving out a unique and valuable place for community radio alongside commercial broadcasters and the ABC/SBS. In these times of media reform, economic uncertainly and shifts in media consumption, our capacity for diverse and independent programming shines ever brighter.

It was these sentiments that I shared with our Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield when meeting with him last week. We met to talk about digital community radio funding. Community radio is a key pillar in Australian broadcasting, and a world renowned example of grassroots media. We must continue to be heard on a free-to-air basis, and mustn't be left behind as digital radio listening grows. After gathering some 53,000 petition signatures and growing our database to over 100,000 supporters, meeting more than 15 MP’s and candidates and being blown away by the huge amount support given online and on-air on our National Day Of Action on 3 June, we remain hopeful that the Coalition Government will match the promise of the Labor Party, the Greens and others to restore digital community radio funding if elected on 2 July. 

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Abstract
This paper considers the potential of community based information and communication technology (ICT) centres to support and promote the democratic voice. It does so through presenting comparative research findings from eight ICT centres in South Asia. The research uses a methodology that combines ethnographic approaches with action research. Here I look at the notion of ‘democratic voice’ in a loosely defined sense, referring to the ability of ‘ordinary’ people to access media and other information and communication technologies, and to create their own local content. As such it describes to some extent the processes of ‘metamorphosis’ involved in ‘citizen’s media’ participants becoming, through these activities, ‘active citizens’ (Rodriguez 2004). At a point in time when alternative media studies are recognising a new relevance and development communication research facing a crisis in direction, this paper considers research findings emerging from and utilised in community based ICT initiatives across South Asia. Looking at the research in a comparative framework, lessons can be learned about the relevance of community media for supporting democratic voice, and the processes that are most likely to achieve this.