The perception of community radio as public sphere and its potential impact on political action: lessons from Tanzania
This study takes initial look at the promise of community radio as a public sphere. Given the interest that community radio has generated in the communication for development (C4d) arena, particularly its portrayal as a tool for democracy and good governance, the study attempts to ascertain whether the model through its flagship genre – political talk-back program can enact political participation or engender political efficacy within the African context. Data for the study came from a field research conducted in the United Republic of Tanzania. The study combines a survey with focus group and in-depth interviews. Relationships between engagement with community radio, political participation and interest, and political efficacy were examined, as well as its association with individual’s level of interpersonal discussion of local issues. A key finding shows that involvement with political talk programs on community radio can promote political participation and interest. Similarly, the result reveals an association between participation on talk program and political efficacy. These results are encouraging in that they point to community radio as serving useful democratic purpose in empowering citizens by giving voice to those considered “marginalized”, and at the same time fulfilling a major role of providing valued information at the local levels. As the foundation of public sphere, the stations seem to encourage active citizen participation and a healthy diversity of opinion. Certainly, this form of communication is needed for the occurrence of sustainable democratic development.
Keywords: community radio, public sphere, political efficacy, political awareness, Tanzania