• Civilmedia11, Day 2: Panel 1/Community Radios in Brazil/ Digital Participation
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Community Radios in Brazil: clientelism, citizenship, quality, and democratization

Abstract: Community-oriented radio stations are important for democracy. They are in the forefront of movements to democratize the access to mass media, as tools for citizens to express their views and to get access to information. In Brazil, around 4,100 associations have been licensed to operate community radios. But many of these radios obey a singular “political grammar”, in which clientelism is a problem. The article shows an intense political usage of community radios on two levels: local, where they have their value in “retail” politics; and state–federal, with “wholesale” type actions by building an environment formed by various community stations controlled by political forces. It also shows that many Brazilian community radios belong to politicians, and are used as tools to obtain political prestige and votes in elections. There is a competition between these so-called community radios and regular commercial radios, which are also subject to intense clientelism. In this competition, these coopted community radios usually adopt quality patterns very similar to those used by mainstream media, as a strategy of mischaracterization that leads to the loss of many community media attributes. These phenomena negatively affect community radios’ democratic functions and their capability to promote development.

Digital Participation-Platform “nrwision“

Abstract: The development of new participation forms in the internet (commentary, Blogs, Wikis, the SocialWeb) has put traditional citizen media broadcasters under pressure in terms of legitimization. In Germany, there is an on-going discussion to what extent those open-channels are nowadays worth funding. One reaction to this situation is a new, ambitious project that started 2009 in Germany. Its aim is to promote participation and collaborative content creation in the field of TV-journalism: “nrwision” has replaced the former “open channels”. This platform allows people in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to create and disseminate their video content via cable TV (4 Mio households), internet and mobile devices. All programmes are now monitored by a professional team of journalists. One additional aim of this project is to improve content quality in terms of technical and narrative/journalistic improvement.

The contributors use this platform mainly to improve their technical and journalistic skills. From their perspective, the aim is rather to get media-skills and media-education, than to come up with alternative, uncovered issues. It is an interesting question, if this function-shift and those rather journalistic quality criteria in this project also foster democracy and still help people to have a voice, or if this shift means a development towards a public-funded platform for media-training?