Community Media across generations #RDE19

A research team from the Netherlands, headed up by Utrecht University’s Lola De Koning, gave an overview of four different local community broadcast networks’ practices and experiences in a workshop on Community Radio at Radiodays Europe. Later a range of broadcasters from around the world spoke about their stations.

From their research, the Netherlands team identified best practices and common challenges for commuity radio stations across the world:

* Best practices 

– Medium-specificity and quality
– Increasing accessibility 
– Social media to younger audience and older who watch TV
– Democratic programming

* Challenges

– Funding and recognition
– Changing media landscape
– Sustainabiltiy

She said the context of your content is “always unique” and the goal is “having quality and open access.” 

Countries such as Austria, Germany and Switzerland have clear ideas about their own platforms.

Austria has 7 out of 14 Austrian community media outlets which are located in rural/peripheric areas; they fill a gap with meeting places and act as catalysts for sustainable regional development. Youth involvement as well as older generations gives rise for them to express their views and allows empowerment.

Older generations in Austria also need to be empowered to speak about their own concerns and topics. Different genders, ages and backgrounds have a platform to express their views

Germany is differerent. Burgermediem is established as a democratic-policial corrective to counter-balance deficits in other media sectors. It has 180+ community radios and television netwworks. Challenges include the need for self-procured funds (membership fees, donations, projects).

In Switzerland there are 17 community radio stations; 9 are co-funded via a license fee. Challenges for Swiss stations include funding, training for best practices and the intercultural and multilingual nature of the population.

Conclusions from the study:

– Diversity, inclusivity and intersectionality as best practice
– Increasing accessibility for (future) content makers is important
– Public money, public value and public control are key factors of successful community radio
– Fostering legal recognition and impact is important
– Associations and European networks have an important role to play in improving stations
– Funding and connectivity are always challenges


Meeting points were helpful for younger and older generations as a point for exchange of ideas. The goal is to “not find one size fits all” model, but all platforms given formats as a third sector with new vocabularies being developed between the two.

Spaces of Inclusion was commissioned by the Council of EU Media and Internet Division to expolore in more detail the role media, and specifically community media, plays in strengthening society.

One station named Orange, in Austria has been broadcasting for 20 years. It has 150 programs which include a livery of 25 languages 24/7, 500 volunteer radio makers, 12 employees plus interns. It is a publicly funded association and quite successful, but like any organisation it has its challenges. One of the biggest challenges the station currently faces is finding slots for new programs.  “It is difficult to ask a presenter who has had a program for 20 years at 4 pm every Thursday to move to Monday morning… Presenters who have been doing the same same for 20 years and are not responsive to new ideas is one fo the problems we face.”

A range of other speakers also discussed their experiences of community radio from around the world.


Lina Chawaf, Editor in Chief of Rozana FM spoke about her station for refugees.

“We can not do funny stories, because people are dying every day. We work under very tough circumstances, so it is not easy for us to make radio, but we believe we can make a change. This is why community radio is very important in Syria nowadays.”

Working in high-conflict areas such as Syria, Chawaf said:

“There must be a team effort and must work together as they face issues… people are not used to expressing themselves due to dictatorship… even if you can’t show your face, at least you can share your opinion – they only hear the voice and you may not be recognised.”

It’s a practice of freedom of expression and is creating a debate on radio, it must be supported by cohesion on air.

Many presenters, due to war injuries, may not have one hand or leg, but can be do the job with optomistic views and can deliver a message with some meaning without the added fear of  being reprimanded.”

Their in-house internship has been going on for five years with tough circumstances due to losing friends, colleagues and kidnappings, so the voice needs to be conservative, but the ability to have a voice is important just the same. Privacy and remaining anonymous with surveillance being ever-present makes it difficult to overcome the stumbling blocks. 

Youth, Older Generations and those with Disabilities

At station 3FACH Kickass 96.2 Luzerne, young people retire at 25 years of age to make way for the next generation to go on air.

“Youth radio has had its 22 years anniversary… it was a high schooler who initially took it on as a shool project. It was not for profit and the goal was to support diverse music. There are 22 shows, including  special interest with politics, music and a cultural interest.

“Webstream ability meant it gave younger listeners another outlet to broadcast. With 38 team members and mostly students who work part-time, they also encouraged other students to visit and exchange ideas and learn from them.”

The four managers who run the station have radio rules and a structure they feel is imperative to keep the balance.

This year they decided to take on video and workshops and work with professsionals. Combining broadcasting and video of the guests worked well with a younger generation. Their biggest projects are small festivals they support and are happy to live stream non-profit events. A Summer Bar was implemented and the income goes directly to the radio station. 

They try to give a platform to unknown artists and have a Kick-Ass Award to a local musician annually.

Delegates at the session also heard about the 30th year anniversary of KanalK from Jurg Morgenegg.

The station does mobile reporting from a bus that travels around regional areas. It is radio for trainees – they choose their subjects and themes. “Young people have a lot of fun developing their content and look forward in not having to attend school on Wednesday afternoons due to their input into programming.”

The station also broadcasts content from older generations, “they have their own themes, such as music, issues and cultural activities, it is interesting because it’s diversive in the content with them drawing on life-long experiences.”

On the station there are foreign language programs between 7 and 9 pm at night. “That is when you can hear various ethnic programs which cater for many minority groups giving them a voice regardless of any generation gap.” 

Social minorities and those with disabilities also make programs. “It can be time consuming as their techniques need a lot of support… At the end of the day we see the joy in their eyes and a great satisfaction washes over the hardships endured. People with impairments do not always have the accessiblity ,but they have the opportunity to communicate and engage with other radio programmers who can socialise on an even keel.”

Switzerland understands there’s not a lot of funds available and it’s quite expensive to maintain a radio station. In Switzerland, particularly urban French and Italian speakers support the community stations well.

Michael Straus of Joy FM in Australia uses podcasts and other mediums for keeping youngsters engaged, considering the amount of investment that is has been placed in gaining their support. 

Reporting: Grace Lech



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