Community Radio 2.0
- Reinventing Participation, Empowerment and Community in Converging Public Spheres

MA thesis in Communication for Development, Malmö University

This thesis was conducted on the Western Cape of South Africa at three community radio stations.
 New technologies, such as social media and web services, are becoming increasingly common and important tools for community radio stations. The convergence of community radio, social media and web services opens up new opportunities for participation from the audience and challenges previous conceptions of community, participation, empowerment and the public sphere. This study focuses on how this convergence affects notions of participation, empowerment, community and the public sphere as well as the resulting challenges and opportunities. The study was conducted at three community radio stations in the WesternCape, South Africa and used a mixed-methods approach of qualitative interviews, a survey and netnographic observations of social media and web presence. The findings show that social media and web services increases and changes participation by extending possibilities to interact independently of spatiotemporal limitations of radio broadcasts. It has direct effects on the content of the radio shows and the audience is empowered as co-producers and contributors of content. Additionally, the interaction itself creates new content in other mediums, such as blogs. The study also shows how the converging public spheres of community radio and social media are contradictory as participation becomes economized and exclusionary and relies heavily on financial means, access and digital literacy of the community. The expanded, global reach of community radio also challenges the notion of community as it includes distant and diasporic communities.However, the presence in the global mediascape harmonizes with community radio values of self-representation and self-expression. The study concludes that community radio stations need to both strategize their social media use while balancing their mandate to be a voice of the voiceless that lack access and/or digital literacy to participate.