Minority radio: social & cultural identities and Black and minority ethnic (BME) Radio

IP5 and IP6 are closely linked, both investigating minority radio expressed in social & cultural identities and black and minority ethnic (BME) radio as found in the community radio sector. Although these minorities are served to some extent in mainstream radio, both commercial and public service, it has become increasingly the role of minority or community radio to reflect new identities and new forms of citizenship which transcend the boundaries of national identity. (We define community radio as radio transmitted over the air or on the internet which is non-profit in aim and controlled by and representative of the community which owns the project/station). The two IPs are concerned both with geographical and historical perspectives, with the social and political dimensions of cultural encounters and with the way language serves as both a barrier and facilitator for discursive interaction.

The IPs will use the ethnographic methods of Participatory Action Research (Tacchi et al 2003), referred to hereafter as PAR. This combines a holistic approach, looking at the whole social setting of a radio station/project and contextualising it within the wider economy, government policies etc, while at the same time, as action research, encouraging projects to ‘own’ the research and its findings and to develop a research culture that allows them to monitor their own practice and develop research tools. The research will combine three analytical levels, corresponding to the traditional divisions of media research – production (institution), text and audience – and matching the three themes of the overall project: Infrastructures & Public Spheres, Aesthetics & Territoriality and Archive & Cultural Memory.

In year 1 the two PIs will collaborate in the identification of UK radio stations with which the method of PAR workshops and focus groups can be developed. To start with, the focus will be geographical, selecting a UK region or regions for depth study in which CR stations exemplify a range of types of programming (language, gender, alternative news, cultural/art topics as in the Radia network) and different connections with their communities (e.g. student radio’s use of foreign students). Thereafter, PI6’s main responsibility will be the setting up and running of PAR workshops in the chosen locations, assisted by PI5. Both will share the design and administering of questionnaires and other instruments to contextualise the regional focus within the UK community radio sector as a whole.

The workshops will explore 1) issues of cultural memory: looking at the reception of minority radio, and of mainstream programming that deals with minority communities and which plays a part in shaping the discourse of the ‘other’ within the majority population 2) aesthetics of radio programmes made by/for minority communities, including the “qualitative characteristics of channel-Identity” (Föllmer 2012) and the use of language(s) (Inter.radio 2006) and 3) station infrastructures and cultures that support or constrain participation for minorities in public/counter public spheres. A link person in each station will be identified who can continue the PAR at that level.

At the same time, PI5 will research trans-European dimensions. These will be (a) those that emerge from the PAR, e.g. in the connections made by stations whose use of languages or expression of social & cultural identities form links with similar communities beyond national boundaries whether through collaborative projects or programme sharing; and (b) European-wide issues such as regulation and archives. The former will involve a survey of regulatory policies and the work of representative community radio organisations in a selection of European countries, identifying those infrastructures in which the expression of minority identities in radio is encouraged. The existence and preservation of archives of minority radio in national collections will be researched making use of TRE partners’ and Associated partners’ expertise. At a later stage, as a result of the work with UK stations, the model/methodology developed in the UK will be compared and shared with similar stations in 3 countries.

IP 5 and 6 deliverables will be papers reporting work in progress at the annual conferences of MeCCSA and at least one ECREA conference, a journal article offered for peer review and a chapter contribution to the TRE book. Due to the complementary nature of IP 5 and 6 it is likely that at least two of these will be joint works.