When I was asked to be a radio jockey for Radio Active – a community radio station in Bengaluru India – my first reaction was, can I? Should I? The diehard in me said, go ahead. And so, I met with the station’s audience representatives to find out more.
I was to host a special series on COVID-19 and the impact it has had on how we work. The aim of the show is to bring awareness to how people from different walks of life are dealing with COVID-19 – from the local to the global, from sector experts to everyday citizens. The show would be aired once a week for around 30 minutes. We called it ‘Talk it over’.
How I did it
Once I knew what I was doing and why, the how became easy.
First, I considered different formats and approaches. For example, a collective approach that brings together different stakeholders in one programme to discuss and debate problems and possible solutions. An individual approach, with each programme showcasing a different perspective or experience – one week a government representative, another a citizen, a religious leader, a school teacher and so on. There’s also the ‘call-in-radio’ approach that brings the listeners into the conversation.
I decided to go with the individual approach to be able to give space to hear from people with diverse backgrounds and experiences – health workers, policymakers, researchers, and fundraisers to name just a few.
Then, I listed out the names of the people I wanted to interview and reached out to them. I checked that I had a good diversity of perspectives and experiences. I read articles they had written to prepare for interviews, and I cross-referenced interview themes to ensure no repetition.
The format for each show was broadly the same, and I kept it simple: first an introduction to the person/organisation; then a question on how COVID-19 has changed the way they work, what challenges they’ve faced and how they tackled them; and finally ask them for any other key takeaways they want to share.
What I learned about the community radio as a communication tool
When I became involved in the show, I started paying attention to the role of radio in our lives, I did some research, and I talked to people who work at the station. I realised just how important it is as a communication tool. The radio is over a century old. And despite more recent ‘competitors’ – like TV and social media – it is still going strong.
As a medium, radio is a ‘voice without a face’. And it has the power to give the ‘voiceless a voice’. It promotes access to public information, keeps us entertained and is also a source of companionship for many. It’s also become one of our favourite traveling companions – you can hear it coming from cars and public buses.
During the pandemic, the importance of radio as a communication tool has come to the fore. It brings people and communities that don’t have access to internet together. It is useful in times of strife – like floods, famine, wars to relay important news and advice. It collects and shares voices and perspectives from across the globe. And, if used well, it can build awareness and fuels socio-political changes in communities.
Out of all the reading I did, two articles I found particularly striking and I would recommend for anyone interested in learning more about radio as a communication tool: ‘Radio: one of the most powerful tools of the 21st Century’ and ‘Radio still a powerful worldwide tool for dialogue, tolerance and peace’.