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Making sense of community media

Making sense of community media
In this session we’re going to talk about  community media now there’s all sorts of   different kinds of community media on radio, on  television, in print and online with all different   kinds of aims and purposes. Because of this I think  it’s useful to divide up three different kinds   of community media. The first way of thinking  about community media is as any kind of media   that aims to serve a community usually this is a  geographic local community but it could also be   a community of interest all people interested in a  particular topic or theme.
The advantage of this is   that people from the community get involved in the  media and make it work for them the disadvantage   is that it relies on and depends on ongoing active  involvement of that community in order to survive.   The second way of thinking about community media  is as alternative media media that sets out to be   different to the mainstream so different  music different kinds of conversation,   different viewpoints, different people in it it’s  alternative media the problem with this kind of   community media is by setting out to always be  non-mainstream it ends up being difficult to be   funded it’s difficult to be economically viable as  alternative media.
The third way of thinking about   community media is as linking up civil society  so rather than being controlled by the state   or being tied to the market and making money and  being for-profit it’s everything in between there   so linking up different civil society actors the  problem with this is if you’re not tied to the   state or to the market it’s not always clear where  the money comes from to keep this media viable.   So to conclude there’s all different kinds  of community media and while it’s useful to   think of three different kinds of purpose  usually in practice these all overlap.   But the problem almost all community media face  is economic viability and long-term sustainability.

Community media practices vary greatly around the world. While some focus on countering what they see as problematic representations in the mainstream media, others focus on fostering a sense of belonging or community identity amongst their audience.

There are three ways of thinking about the diversity of community media (Bailey, Cammaerts and Carpentier 2007).

The most conventional way to describe community media is any media that aims to serve a specific community. This community could be defined geographically, such as a specific village or suburb of a city, or it could be a community that has a shared interest or belonging such as an ethnic group. A great example of this is Pamoja FM. Another example would be a community radio station based in a refugee camp. There are many advantages to this kind of community media, such as ensuring that the content is appropriate and relevant to the audience.

Second, community media can be understood as ‘alternative’, or as providing content or perspectives that cannot ordinarily be found within national or mainstream media, particularly for marginalised communities. This is partly the focus of SlumTV. Such alternative media might also define themselves as being aimed at specific audiences, with specialist interests, rather than a mass market. There are many examples of alternative media particularly within blogging and vlogging.

The third way of thinking about community media is as linking up different parts of civil society, or as a ‘third voice’ between state media and private, commercial media. In this context, community media helps to expand democracy by allowing people and voices to join and discuss debates relevant to the public.


Bailey, O., B. Cammaerts and N. Carpentier (2007) Understanding Alternative Media, London: Open University Press.

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