An exploration of community radio, culture and health communication among rural and semi-urban dwellers in the central region of Ghana: a case study of Covid-19 and Radio Peace.
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The mainstream global COVID-19 communication for development and social change approaches, instituted by the neoliberal forces, hinge on information dissemination targeting individual behavioural change to halt the spread of the virus (Dutta et al., 2020). Ghana’s public health communication about COVID-19 has primarily employed persuasive approaches using mainstream channels to share the WHO-approved non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs): personal hygiene, mass masking, social distancing and pharmaceutical measures. However, the adequacy of mainstream approaches to meet the COVID-19 communication needs among marginalised communities is unclear. This study focuses on pandemic responses and explores community participation through counter-discursive platforms like community radio. This thesis explores how local cultures influence the ability, modality and extent of community members’ participation in the workings of community radio in promoting COVID-19 relevant health communication. This study uses qualitative data from three semi-urban and rural community radio host districts in Ghana collected between July and December 2021. Radio Peace, a community radio station in Winneba, Ghana’s Central Region, serves as a single case study. Purposive sampling was employed to select participants from the Effutu Municipal, Awutu Senya West, and Gomoa West Districts, Ghana’s Central Region. By using the culture-centred approach and participatory communication, eight (8) focus group discussions (FGDs) and eleven (11) in-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted to understand how community radio attends to the communicative needs of marginalised people living within the selected communities. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. The findings suggest that community radio enhances the agency of marginalised people by providing an accessible public sphere for community-level dialogue concerning COVID-19 prevention using indigenous language. However, the involvement of marginalised people in Radio Peace’s COVID-19 communication intervention was limited by structural factors. These include indecorous language during on-air discourses, economic challenges of batteries to power radio sets, irregular community visits by the station’s staff, transmission challenges, and difficulty in calling into programmes due to jammed telephone lines. The study concludes that social, economic and cultural contexts significantly influence active listeners’ ability to participate in community radio interventions that pertain to COVID-19 communication. It also considers that community radio effectively communicates COVID-19 prevention messages that offer active listeners opportunities to be involved meaningfully in the interventions. Thus, the study proposes the socio-cultural model for the future conception, design and implementation of COVID-19 communication interventions for community radio in a manner that allows for marginalised people’s meaningful participation in such responses. Access, social capital and community participation are critical for effectively implementing the socio-cultural model for COVID-19 communication using community radio. The success of the socio-cultural model for COVID-19 communication hinges on a nuanced understanding of the beneficiary communities’ local needs, values, structural factors and economic capabilities.