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Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting content that is popular to a local audience but which may often be overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters.

The term has somewhat different meanings in the United Kingdommarker, the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, and Australia. In the UK, the idea of community-based services can be traced back at least as far as the original concept for BBC local radio in the early 1960s. Thereafter various land-based unlicensed pirate radio stations (Such as East London Radio, and Radio AMY (Alternative Media for You)) developed the idea further. As pirate stations proliferated during the late 1970s and early 1980s these stations were joined by those broadcasting specifically to minority immigrant communities (Afro-Caribbean and Asian etc.), particularly in cities such as Londonmarker, Birminghammarker, Bristolmarker, and Manchestermarker. Although, "community radio" remains synonymous with "pirate radio" for some people in the UK, most minority immigrant stations focused purely on specific musical genres and were operated (theoretically at least) on a for-profit basis. Community radio services in the UK are operated on a not-for-profit basis with community ownership and control built in to their structures. Following an experiment started in 2001 by the former UK broadcast regulator The Radio Authority, since 2005 some 200 such stations have been licensed by the UK broadcasting regulator (Ofcommarker). Most such stations broadcast on FM (typically at a radiated power level of approximately 25 Watts (per-plane)) although there are a few that operate on AM (medium wave), particularly in more rural areas.

In the U.S., community radio stations are non-profit, community-based operations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission for broadcasting in the non-commercial, public portion of the FM band. These stations differ from other public radio outlets in the U.S. by allowing community volunteers to actively participate as broadcasters. Pirate radio is virtually unknown in Australia because of the strictly controlled allocation of broadcasting frequencies, and the likely application of severe, legislated penalties, including jail, for offenders.

Vision, philosophy, and status

Modern-day community radio stations often serve their listeners by offering a variety of content that is not necessarily provided by the larger commercial radio stations. Community radio outlets may carry news and information programming geared toward the local area, particularly immigrant or minority groups that are poorly served by other major media outlets. More specialized musical shows are also often a feature of many community radio stations. Community stations and pirate stations (where they are tolerated) can be valuable assets for a region. Community radio stations typically avoid content found on commercial outlets, such as Top 40 music, sports, and "drive-time" personalities.

Conceptions of community in the literature

Communities are complex entities and so what constitutes "community" in Community radio is often a contentious and tricky debate and will vary from country to country. Community may also often be replaced by a range of terms like "alternative", "radical", or "citizen" radio. Traditionally in sociology, a "community" has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. Community radio is often built around concepts of access and participation and so the term community may be thought of as often referring to geographical communities based around the possible reach of the radio's signal, ie. the people who can receive the message, and their potential to participate in the creation of such messages. This is of course problematized by the fact that many radio stations now broadcast over the internet as well, thereby reaching potentially global audiences and communities.

Models of community radio

Philosophically two distinct approaches to community radio can be discerned, though the models are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One stresses service or community-mindedness, a focus on what the station can do for the community. The other stresses involvement and participation by the listener.

Within the service model localism is often prized, as community radio, as a third tier, can provide content focused on a more local or particular community than larger operations. Sometimes, though, the provision of syndicated content that is not already available within the station's service area, is seen as a desirable form of service. Within the United States, for example, many stations syndicate content from groups such as Pacifica Radio, such as Democracy Now!, on the basis that it provides a form of content not otherwise available, because of such a program's lack of appeal to advertisers or (especially in Pacifica's case) politically controversial nature.

Within the access or participatory model, the participation of community members in producing content is seen as a good in itself. While this model does not necessarily exclude a service approach, there is a tension between the two, as outlined, for example, in Jon Bekken's Community Radio at the Crossroads.

Growth in the area

Examples by geographic area


Community Broadcasting is Australia’s third media sector. As at June 2005 there were 442 fully-licensed community radio stations (including remote Indigenous services). The community radio sector in Australia fulfills a broad, but largely unacknowledged role in the Australian media landscape, particularly as a source of local content.

A 2002 report, found that 20,000 (or 0.1% of all Australians) are involved as volunteers in the community radio sector on a regular basis and volunteers equate for more than $145 million in unpaid work each year;Nationally more than 7 million Australians (or 45% of people over 15) listen to community radio in each month (source: McNair Ingenuity).

The role of community broadcasting in Australia, according to the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia is to provide a diverse range of services meeting community needs in ways that are not met by other sectors. Community broadcasting is sustained by the principles of access and participation, volunteerism, diversity, independence and localism.

Community radio stations are sometimes specialist music stations, or they might strongly represent local music and arts. Others might broadcast talks and current affairs programs representing alternative, Indigenous Australian, environmental, feminist or gay and lesbian interests, filling perceived gaps in commercial or government radio content.

Although community radio has grown considerably over the years, both in terms of the number of listener and the number of stations, the sector is largely under funded with individual stations having to spend much of their time financing their community service activities.

53% of community radio stations serve an array of different communities of interestincluding: Indigenous and Ethnic, people with a print disability, young people, olderpeople, arts/fine music, religious, gay and lesbian.

The remaining stations provide service which may be described as generalist, whichaddress the interests of communities in particular geographic locations but will stilladdress a range of diverse specialty interests.

Community broadcasting more than any other form of media in this country shapes and reflects the national character in all its diversity. The sector is unique in its capacity to provide fresh programming by and for Indigenous, Ethnic and RPH communities.

Community broadcasting stations also have a strong commitment to local news, information; the promotion of local and Australian music, arts and culture; and toproviding training in media skills.

When a not-for-profit community group applies to the regulator, the Australia Communications and Media Authority, for a community broadcasting licence they specify what community interest they intend to serve. Licensees are selected by the regulator on the basis of suitability and on the merits of the licence application and the capacity to serve identified community interests. Upon grant of a 5 year renewable licence each station is then required to continue to serve the community interest for which the licence was granted.


One of the most famous examples of community radio was miners' radio in Boliviamarker. Funded by trade union dues and operated mainly at local and regional levels, there were more than 25 such radio stations during the period from about 1960 to 1985. Changes in government policy eliminated many unionised mining jobs after 1985 and some radios were sold or ceased to exist. In spite of many difficulties five stations continue to broadcast.

La Voz del Minero Radio Pío XII RadioVanguardia de Colquiri Radio Animas Radio 21 de Diciembre Radio Nacional deHuanuni... these were some of the most important radio stations created, funded and managed by Bolivian mining workers. It all started in 1949, with one radio station in the mining district of Catavi. During the next 15 years, other districts followed: they bought the equipment, they trained young people from their villages, and the workers themselves funded the experience by giving a percentage of their salary to sustain their radio stations.

Most of the radio stations started small and precariously, only equipped by very simple means. A few of them managed to get foreign support and evolved into more sophisticated radio stations, with better equipment and installations. A few, even built a theatre next to the premises, so union meetings would take place and be transmitted live through the radio. Radio Vanguardia for example, had a beautiful theatre decorated with large murals narrating the story of the Colquiri mining centre. One particular scene on the mural depicts the attack by Bolivian Air Force planes in 1967, when the country was under military rule.

In the early 1970s, 26 radio stations were in operation, all in the mining districts of the highlands of Bolivia. At that time miners' unions in Bolivia were still very powerful and considered among the most important and politically advanced in Latin America.

In times of peace and democracy miners' radio stations were integrated into the daily life of the community. They became the closest and most effective replacement for telephone and postal services.

People would get their mail through the stations and post messages of all kinds, which were read several times during the day: calls for a meeting of women from the Comité de Amas de Casa (Housewives Committee); messages from the union leaders about their negotiations with the government in the capital; messages of love among youngsters; announcing a new play by Nuevos Horizontes drama group (often staged on the platform of a big truck, with workers illuminating the scene with their own lamps); announcements of sport activities, burials, births and festivities.

In times of political upheaval the union radio stations would become the only trustworthy source of information. As the military captured newspapers, radio and TV stations in the capital and other cities, the only information available would come from the miner's radio stations. All of them would join the cadena minera until the army would penetrate the mining camps and assault the stations, which were usually defended to the death by the workers. A film by Bolivian filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés, The Courage of the People, re-enacts the attack on the mining district of Siglo XX by the army in June 1967. Another film, a documentary, by Alfonso Gumucio Dagron and Eduardo Barrios, titled Voices of the Mine and produced by UNESCOmarker, describes their political and social importance.

In times of political and social crisis the miners' radio stations would air reports on the political situation; they would also link for live transmissions when an important sporting or cultural event took place in the mining district. Other than that, each station had full independence from the next.

Certainly, miners' radio stations were important because miners were important. But also, Bolivian miners were more influential than ever because during several decades they had powerful means to communicate their ideas. As the importance of mining in Bolivia declined in the 1980s, the unions were weakened and some of the radio stations disappeared along with the mining districts.


Community radio stations in Canadamarker most commonly target commercially underserved minority language communities such as Franco-Ontarians, Acadians or First Nations, although some communities also have English language community stations. These stations are often volunteer-run and operated by cooperatives or other not-for-profit corporations.

In larger cities, community-oriented programming more commonly airs on campus radio stations. Some cities do, however, have community radio stations as well. Most community stations in Canada are members of the National Campus and Community Radio Association, or NCRA. Most of Canada's French language community radio stations are members of either l'Association des Radiodiffuseurs Communitaire du Quebec (ARCQ) or l’Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada inc (l'ARC).

The province with the largest number of community radio stations in Canada is Saskatchewanmarker. The majority of those stations are affiliated with Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation, an aboriginal public radio network.

Community stations are subject to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's (CRTC) community radio policy.

In this policy, the CRTC requires community stations to
  • facilitate community access to programming;
  • promote the availability of training throughout the community; and
  • provide for the ongoing training and supervision of those within the community wishing to participate in programming.

It also requires stations to offer diverse programming that reflects the needs and interests of the community including:
  • music by new and local talent;
  • music not generally broadcast by commercial stations;
  • spoken word programming; and
  • local information.

The CRTC maintains a list of community stations. In Canada, call letters and frequencies are regulated by Industry Canada’s Spectrum Management.


In Ecuador many community radio stations are operated by religious groups. They include Catholic, Protestant and Bahá'í stations. The amount of community participation and self-management varies. Radio Latacunga was associated with a project in which indigenous organizations were supplied with simple equipment to record weekly programs for broadcast in the early morning. Also in Ecuador some indigenous groups operate their own radios. This is the case for the Shuar Federation in the tropical rainforest, and the community of Simiatug in Bolívar Province. Unlike Bolivia, trade-union radio has historically been weak in Ecuador.


The first community stations started as pirates, broadcasting politically free speech and music programs after the change from Socialist system. Tilos Rádió in 1991 was the first such station, followed by Fiksz Rádió and Civil Rádió. Since 2004 a new category arose, kisközösségi or small community station which are low-power stations. By 2008 more than 60 such microstations has started broadcasting throughout the country. There are village-stations, small town-stations, university stations, subcultural and regiligous stations as well. In Budapest Cool FM, Első Pesti Egyetemi Rádió, Fúzió Rádió are the small community stations.


In Indiamarker, the campaign to legitimise community radio began in the mid 1990s, soon after the Supreme Court of Indiamarker ruled in its judgment of February 1995 that "airwaves are public property".[66624] This came as an inspiration to groups across the country, but to begin with, only educational (campus) radio stations were allowed, under somewhat stringent conditions.

Anna FM is India's first campus 'community' radio, launched on 1 February 2004, which is run by Education and Multimedia Research Centre (EM²RC), and all programmes are produced by the students of Media Sciences at Anna Universitymarker

On 16 November 2006, the government of India notified new Community Radio Guidelines which permit NGOs and other civil society organizations to own and operate community radio stations. About 4,000 community radio licenses are on offer across India, according to government sources. By 30 November 2008, the ministry of Information & broadcasting, government of India, had received 297 applications for community radio licenses, including 141 from NGOs and other civil society organizations, 105 from educational institutions and 51 for 'farm radio' stations to be run by agricultural universities and agricultural extension centers ('Krishi Vigyan Kendras'). Of these, 107 community radio stations have been cleared for licensing through the issue of Letters of Intent. 13 Grant of Permission Agreements (GOPA) have been signed with license applicants under the new scheme.

By 30 November 2008, there were 38 operational community radio stations in the country. Of these, two are run by NGOs and the rest by educational institutions. The first community-based radio station, licensed to an NGO (as distinct from campus-based radio) was launched on 15 October 2008, when 'Sangham Radio' in Pastapur village, Medak district, Andhra Pradeshmarker state, was switched on at 11.00am. Sangham Radio, which broadcasts on 90.4 MHz, is licensed to Deccan Development Society (DDS), an NGO that works with women's groups in about 75 villages of Andhra Pradesh. The community radio station is managed by 'General' Narsamma and Algole Narsamma. The second NGO-led community radio station in India was launched on 23 October 2008 at 'TARAgram' in Orchha, Madhya Pradeshmarker state. Named 'Radio Bundelkhand' after the Bundelkhand region of central India where it is located, the radio station is licensed to the Society for Development Alternatives (DA), a Delhi-based NGO. Radio Bundelkhand also broadcasts on 90.4 MHz for four hours a day, including two hours of repeat broadcast.

By 9 July 2009, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting had issued 'Grant of Permission Agreements' (GOPA) for 51 community radio stations. Most of the GOPAs were issued to educational institutions. Among the community radio stations started in 2009 SARANG 107.8 is the only one in Karnataka, though there are few more which has received SACFA (Standing Committee Clearance for Frequency Allocation). SARANG 107.8 is run by St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangalore, a coastal town in the southern part of Karnataka. SARANG 107.8 FM means 'all colours' of Mangalore signifying various social, religious, linguistic communities and their harmonious existence - which is a requirement now after the disturbance in the context of attack on churches (post 14 September 2008) by radical saffronists, and later assault on women in a pub in the name of moral policing by similar groups. The local communities of farmers, fisher folk, medical/ legal experts, students, workers contribute regularly to this radio. The radio also spreads messages of peace and harmony among people through programmes based on the need for the same. Health and hygiene, agricultural messages, fisher folk issues, road safety, water conservation, rain water harvesting, folk culture and life, original entertainment by locals and students are the hall mark of this radio. Currently (as on the last day of July 2009), SARANG 107.8 broadcasts in Konkani, Kannada, Tulu, and English languages regularly, besides occasionally broadcasting in Malayalam and Beary languages.

Under the new community radio policy, any not-for-profit 'legal entity' - except individuals, political parties and their affiliates, criminal and banned organizations - can apply for a CR license. Central funding is not available for such stations, and there are stringent restrictions on fundraising from other sources. Only organisations that are registered for a minimum of three years old and with a 'proven' track record of local community service can apply. License conditions implicitly favour well-funded stations as against inexpensive low power operations, several of which (e.g. Mana Radio in Andhra Pradesh and Raghav FM in Biharmarker) ran successfully on shoe-string budgets before the imposition of any community radio policy.

The licence entitles them to operate a 100 watt (ERP) radio station, with a coverage area of approximately 12 kilometres radius. A maximum antenna height of 30 meters is allowed. Community radio stations are expected to produce at least 50% of their programmes locally, as far as possible in the local language or dialect. The stress is on developmental programming, though there is no explicit ban on entertainment. News programmes are banned on community radio in India, as also on commercial FM radio. However, the government recently clarified that certain categories of news are permitted on radio, including sports news and commentaries, information on traffic and weather conditions, coverage of cultural events and festivals, information on academic events, public announcements pertaining to utilities like electricity and water supply, disaster warnings and health alerts.

Five minutes of advertising per hour is allowed on community radio. Sponsored programs are not allowed except when the program is sponsored by the Government at the Centre or State.

Activists and community workers from across the country have banded together under the aegis of the 'Community Radio Forum' in order to coordinate training and support for community radio stations, as well as to continue to petition for a more proactive community radio policy. The Community Radio Forum, India, was registered as a 'Society' and 'Trust' on 26 February 2008. In the meantime, mobile telephone operators have begun to offer commercial broadcast services over GSM, evading completely government restrictions built around traditional concepts of broadcasting technology.


Irelandmarker has had self-described community radio stations since the late 1970s, though it was not until 1995 that the first 11 licensed stations came on air as part of a pilot project run by the Independent Radio and Television Commission. Early stations were represented by the National Association of Community-Radio Broadcasters, which in 1988 published a guide to setting up new stations. More recently licensed stations have formed CRAOL as a representative group.


Japanmarker has a series of low power community radio stations across the country.


The first community radio was established in Jordanmarker using the internet. was established in November 2000 as a means of bypassing government restrictions on private non governmental radio. In 2005 AmmanNet radio received license as an FM station and was able to broadcast to the people of Jordan's capital Amman. AmmanNet has also been involved in the training of other community radio stations in Jordan, one as part of evillage in the twin villages of Lib and Mleih and another as part of King Hussein University in the southern city of Maan. Also AmmanNet is involved in training Arab media activists in Internet radio. A program was launced to train and launch nine gulf-based radio stations as part of

Two new community radio stations were recently established in Jordan. Yarmouk FM is located at Yarmouk Universitymarker in Irbedmarker as part of the school's Journalism & Mass Communications program. Farah FM is currently under construction but has a license to broadcast in Ammanmarker and Zarqamarker, Jordan's second largest city. This station will focus primarily on youth and women's issues.


The very famous community radio in the Philippines is Radyo Natin. Radyo Natin is a set of radio stations in the Philippines. Its stations nationwide broadcast a live Manila feed through satellite. But sometimes some stations air local programming, cutting the Manila feed. It is considered a community network because local programs are being aired in different RN stations. Radyo Natin is owned by Manila Broadcasting Company.


Nepal has adopted community Radio in 1997. Radio Sagarmahta 102.4 MHz [66625]is the first independent community radio station not only in Nepal but entire South Asia. It has been established by Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (Nefej) in May 1997. Radio Sagarmatha has been always in front line to fight for freedom of expression and right to information of the citizen in Nepal. Now it is the leader and role model for all community radio stations in South Asia. Now there are more than 150 community radio have been granted license from Nepal government. In Nepal there is no different policy and law to run community radio. The existing policy and law is for both community and commercial radio stations. So, including the pioneer community radio, Radio Sagarmatha, community radio stations have been demanding to the government to introduce different policy and law to facilitate the community radio stations. There are more than 150 commercial radio stations have received license in Nepal. Social change and social justice is the motto of community Radio stations. They have played vital role to restore democracy and change Nepal as the republic country from the Kingdom. Rule of law, gender equality, education, health, civic education, anti-corruption, good governance, environment and day to day problem and issues are being treated in different format by the local community radio stations. Community radios have a good coverage in over all the Nepal. News is one of the very popular format of Nepalese community radio stations.

South Africa

From shortly after the end of the Second World War, the country's repressive State policies gave the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) an effective monopoly. For almost half a century, it was the only broadcaster permitted to operate legally and faced no independent radio competition on South African territory until the early 1990s' transition to democracy. The first legally-permitted, non-SABC, broadcast was that of 1991's 'Festival Radio' from the campus radio studios at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. An Independent Broadcast Authority was created to oversee the freeing up of the country's airwaves with small, community radio stations being permitted to broadcast for the first time. Applications were discussed in open session to ensure transparency and accountability. Notable early community broadcasters included Bush Radio in Cape Town and Radio Unitra in Umtata. The Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) now regulates the telecomms and broadcasting sector.

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islandsmarker has a number of community FM radio stations established under a UNDP programme in Isabel Province. In March-June 2009 these were being used to strengthen women and youth networking under a peace building project of the Commonwealth of Learning[66626]. The stations are linked to rural email stations of the People First Network. The Don Bosco technical school has also assisted Tetere community in running a community station near Honiaramarker, and the Solomon Islands Development Trust have established a Community Media centre to build local capacity.

South Korea

Korean government licensed a few small power community radio stations in the year of 2005. Maximum power is 1 Watt and it reaches 5 km.


In Swedenmarker, community radio (närradio) was introduced in 1978 with test transmissions. Regular transmissions started next year. Commercials were not allowed until 1993 but operations are mainly run as non-profit NGO's. There are 150 community radio stations in Sweden.


Community radio in Thailandmarker saw fast growth during the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, taking advantage of a delay in the establishment of a regulatory authority. Thailand's 2,000-3,000 community radio stations, often operating unlicensed, have been accused of causing interference with air traffic radio and other radio stations[66627]. However, selected community radio stations have been the target of police crackdowns, causing critics to accuse the government of political interference.[66628]Community radio in Thailand now is uncertain about their status.

United Kingdom

Community radio stations were in operation on cable systems from 1978 onwards and mostly situated in new town areas and staffed and operated by volunteers.In the late 80s and early 90s the then newly formed Radio Authority awarded licences (termed "Incremental" by the outgoing Independent Broadcasting Authority) to a number of new, ex-pirate and cable based community ventures. Notable stations included Radio Thamesmeadmarker (later RTM Radio), one of the first cable radio stations in the UKmarker which started on the Rediffusion cable system in South East London area in 1978.The old breed of community radio stations could raise funding by selling air space and by receiving donations or grants.

United States

U.S.marker community radio stations are usually staffed by volunteers and air a wide variety of programming. They generally have smaller budgets than National Public Radio (NPR) network outlets, due to the small audience of potential contributors and/or business donors. Community radio stations are distinct from NPR stations in that most community radio programming is locally produced by non-professional disc jockeys and producers, where NPR tends to rely more on syndicated programming, both from its own sources and other outlets such as PRI; NPR stations almost always have paid staffs to handle most duties. Community stations often try, as a matter of principle, to reduce their dependence on financial contributions from corporations (and even governments) in comparison with other public broadcasters. Many community stations are licensed as full-power FM stations, while others - especially newer community stations - are licensed under low-power broadcasting rules. Many of the former were founded in the 1960s and 1970s, when cultural experimentation (e.g., the New Left) in the U.S. had a significant following, particularly among the young.

The National Federation of Community Broadcasters was formed in 1975 as an umbrella organization for community-oriented, non-commercial radio stations. The NFCB publishes handbooks for stations and lobbies on behalf of community radio at the federal level. It has been criticized for encouraging the homogenization of community stations through its Healthy Station Project. The project encouraged stations to scale back volunteers' power over management and the content of their programs, as well as embrace more predictable "strip" programming. The Grassroots Radio Coalition is a very loose coalition of stations that formed as a reaction against increasing commercialization of public radio and lack of support for volunteer-based stations (including in the NFCB). Some stations are part of both groups.

See also


  1. CBONLINE Culture, Commitment, Community: the Australian Community Radio Sector: Susan Forde, Micahel Meadows and Kerrie Foxwell [1]. Retrieved 3 January 2007
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4]
  5. [5]
  6. Hansard 1981
  7. Jesse Walker, Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America (New York University Press, 2001), pp.147-149

External links

National community radio federations

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