Community Media/MARAA/Community Radio/Participation/Technology
Possibilities of Participation in Technology
In India, there has been plenty of discussion around concepts of participation and participatory development, but strangely, this has always been on the sociological aspect. Technology while being recognised as an important tool to facilitate this participation, has by itself not been given too much importance. Most groups are looking for turn key solutions, for technology which 'just works'. However, we feel that this is not a long term approach to self sustainability. Learning how to fix small issues in your computer, or antenna is just as important as learning how to make a good program. Both will ensure that your radio station remains grounded in the community. If technical issues are always left to the outsiders or the so called 'technical experts' then there will always be a sense of dependency and more importantly, a sense of ownership is never complete, until the tinkering on technology happens within the community :)
In terms of studio technology, the important things to learn are:
- Studio components - What are the main components of equipment listed in the studio
- Studio connection- How is this equipment wired together using what kind of cables
- Microphones - What kind of microphones/recorders are present in the studio and what kind of recordings are they used for
- Computer - How to use the computer, how to save files, how to retrieve, search files etc
- Editing - How to record and edit audio programs
It is important for community members (selected one or two people) to be familiar with transmission. This encourages self sustenance in terms of technology and goes a long way in making the community independent.
- Learn up all the various kinds of microphones which are available in your studio. Usually, if they've been chosen well, then each microphone will have different kinds of functions. For example, if you see a longish sleek microphone in the studio, its almost certain that it will be a good unidirectional condenser mic, which is very good for interviews. Similarly, find out if your studio has a cardioid microphone, which is good for debates, where both people can sit opposite each other, with a single mic picking up both their voices.
- Learn how many channels the mixing console has, where to insert the headphones, how to fade in and out, which are the master faders, how to give gain if people speak softly, in case of pre-recorded programs, how to add effects through the console, and learn up all the connections between computer, mics, sound card and mixing console. The best way to do this is to sit with some one who knows the mixing console really well, have a really close look at how the connections are done, then remove all the wires, and then put it back again one by one. It is strongly recommended that you do this with able supervision, or there is a good chance you'll get it wrong the first few times, and you can't afford to do that, if your radio station is a live one!
- Get completely familiar with your computer. Usually most radio stations use Windows, because of its familiarity with a wide base of people. In case of Windows, first figure out how much hard disk space is there on your computer. This can be done by double clicking on My Computer icon, and then right clicking on each of the hard drives, and selecting Properties. Also figure out how much Random Access Memory (RAM) you have on hand before using the computer. This can be done by right clicking on the My Computer icon, and selecting Properties. The next step is to basically talk to other reporters and editors in your radio station and learn the system they use for saving files. Usually, many radio stations will have created folders in D, E or F drives. Its not a good idea to save data on the same drive which has Windows (usually C Drive). These folders are named sometimes based on the dates, names of reporters, topics of programs, categories of programs etc. It all depends on how its being done locally. Learn up the system of saving and categorising data. In case your radio station computer use any of the various Linux distributions, you need to spend some time learning how to use the Terminal, and some basic commands on how to copy, how to move files, how to search for files, and also learn about how to use some really good software like Campcaster, Amarok, Audacity etc. Also a good idea would be to join the Linux community and read up regularly on what others are saying. That way you'll be updated and also motivated to be a part of the larger Linux community.
- Editors are usually a scarce commodity in most community radio stations. Again depending on the Operating System which your radio station uses, there are various softwares for each. Usually, Audacity is a good bet on most Operating systems. We'd recommend that you start your editing experience by learning up Audacity first. It is really a simple interface, and very easy to use. Once you get a hang of the fundamentals, then you can experiment with other editing platforms. Some of the other ones which come to mind are Adobe Audition (earlier Cool Edit Pro), on Windows, and Ardor on Ubuntu (Linux Operating System)
Getting a hang of the transmission set up requires some understanding of how RF (Radio Frequency) works, a basic understanding of how resistors and capacitors work. Further, you should be able to solder with a steady hand! Our advice on this aspect would be to have a good training from the people who come and install the transmitter at your radio station. Also, keep a lookout for folks who do provide such capacity building on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there seem to be no such groups in India at the moment. However, there are such groups in other places. For example, Prometheus (U.S based) and APC (Association for Progressive Communication) do provide such workshops sometimes.