Community Media/MARAA/Community Radio/Conceptual Clarity/Radio Research

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Here participants are told about why research is important and how it can make the radio station work better. Basically two kinds of research is talked about: Pre-program research and post-program research. The pre-program research is about finding which issues should the radio broadcast about. Which community are we addressing, what are the spoken and unspoken needs of this community and so on? The post program research is about finding reactions to programs which have already been broadcast. This talks about how to collect feedback, what to ask listeners, and so on. For pre-program research, we all, including participants, go on a walk into the village, just a stroll lasting for about half an hour. Then when we come back, each one of us has to talk about what we saw, and why it remained in our memory. So not only do the diverse opinions and observations come in to play, it also demonstrates how a simple walk can bring in so many perspectives on the same place and time. So we tell the participants that now they are radio practitioners, and now every time they are outside, they have to think as radio practitioners, keeping an eye out for programming, keeping an eye out for the unusual; developing friendly relations with as many people in your network as possible. For post program research, we show them examples of feedback collection forms, wherein reporters who go on information gathering can collect some feedback. We also talk about Ethnographic Action Research, wherein the reporters cannot just measure feedback in terms of how many people listened and how many did not listen. It has to be who is listening, where is the information travelling (only certain castes, or certain streets etc), how are people reacting or responding to information, understanding the media environment and so on. To do this, we conduct several mapping exercises to show the complexity of a seemingly homogeneous and simple community.

For example, it is not enough to assume that women are making programs or women are listening to your radio station. One way of understanding who this "woman" is to do a mapping exercise. A simple mapping would be to ask one selected participant to come to the drawing board. The rest of the team has to describe this woman, and the participant has to draw her out/or write down the details. Some of the questions asked during this session are:

  • How old is she?
  • What is her name?
  • Is she married?
  • How many children does she have?
  • Is she working outside or is she a housewife?
  • Is she happy? Why?
  • Is she sad? Why?
  • What kind of relationship does she share with her husband?
  • What religion is she?
  • What is her financial position? Why?
  • Is she a member of a micro-credit group or affiliated with any NGO?
  • What is her caste?

From all these questions, which the facilitator or chair asks, the participants subconsciously articulate the stereotypical woman that they have in mind, and often the subject of the women's programming. The most important part is the follow up of this mapping where it is important to illustrate that while there may be many who are similar to this fictional woman, but in any community, the women are just as diverse as men, and it is important not to generalise. Also this kind of discussion opens up avenues for other kinds of programming to address women.

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