Can you hear me now? : possibilities of an engaged citizenry by way of Izwi IoMzansi FM community radio and mobile phone convergence.
Radio and mobile phones have existed in developing countries for years, however the diversity and pace with which these innovations have grown has made it difficult for researchers to effectively explore their effects. Community radio came into being after the shift to democracy in 1994 and community radio became a “third voice” between state public radio and commercial radio in South Africa (NCRF 1999; Servaes 1999:260). While community radio is attributed with this potential it is also critiqued for its failure in this regard. In particular, the presumed interactive and expressive ‘community’ of several community radio stations in the greater Durban area has been argued to be more mythic than real (Dalene 2007; Teer-Tomaselli 2001). By the same token, the South African communications landscape has changed and expanded significantly since the onset of mobile phone networks and mobile Internet. The dual ubiquity, versatility and affordability of radio and mobile phones demonstrate the complementary potential of their convergence towards participatory citizenship. This research investigates this understudied link between new and old media, particularly focusing on community radio in terms of its mandate for community participation and citizenship (ICASA 2011). Using a network ethnography and mixed methods approach, this study explores interactivity by means of mobile phone functions (calls, Short Message System [SMS] and Facebook) in Durban’s Izwi loMzansi FM’s knowledge community. Additionally, the study employs du Gay et al.’s (1997) Circuit of Culture model and examines possible hegemonic discourses in the media public sphere (Gitlin 1998; Habermas 1989; Hall 1980; Tomaselli 1987). It is revealed that, in general, availability and accessibility of mobile phones and social media platforms create more possibilities for diverse dialogue and active participation in community radio programming. However, the biggest hindrance for active citizenry lies not in regulation protocol but with the presenter’s comfort and resourcefulness in integrating new media technologies into their programmes.
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