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Exploration of Listeners’ Participation in Media Content of Community Radio: Lessons from Forte FM

Foluke B. Bamigboye*, Oluyinka Osunkunle

Department of Communication, University of Fort Hare, South Africa

*Corresponding Author:
Foluke B. Bamigboye
Department of Communication, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Tel: 0635197008
E-mail: [email protected]

Received Date: December 09, 2021; Accepted Date: December 23, 2021; Published Date: December 30, 2021

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Listeners’ participation creates a platform for the marginalized community members to give programme ideas which can be conceptualized by community radio stations globally. In South Africa, there are a number of community radios that informs and educates its intended audience. But not all listeners’, particularly audience of a specific programming in the community media are given the privileges to not only be consumer of information and views but be able to participate in media content development towards meeting their wants. The apathy has been lack of grassroots participation and maximal involvement of listeners’ in the activities of community radio stations. Participation of the common plays a vital role for development to take place, by providing an avenue for established project. This paper used participatory communication theory to explore listeners’ participation in community radio programming and development activities. Given its sole social responsibility, community radio should encourage community participation in its media content and development activities to enhance sustainability of a community’s project through bottom-top participation.


Community radio; Participatory communication theory; media content; Listener’s participation and development activities


The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC, 1998), opined that community radio serves as catalyst to ensure good and strong society by energizing the common through its timely reports and also by giving room to the marginalized communities. In addition, this opinion can be established through grassroots participation and maximal involvement of listeners’ in the activities of community radio station, as well as participating in the programme line up of the radio station. Community radio will add to these debates by portraying people’s capabilities in relation to forms of participation [1]. This paper therefore, explores how Forte FM community radio station in Alice encourages listeners’ participation in its media content and development activities. Community radio as a branch of communication for development can in other words establish development by various means through listeners’ participation, publishing development ideas, education, public awareness and health programmes as reported by [2].

Community media encompasses numerous topics and welcomes “social mission”. For instance, an educational programme may feature societal issues such as childcare programmes, human trafficking, adult education, farming tips, listening club, and public awareness. All the above mentioned programmes can only be impactful and relevant if the programme idea is being conceptualized by the community for the community. This paper noted that, “participation” of the common plays a vital role for development to take place. In addition, participatory communication argues that people’s participation provides a platform and avenue for established project. Hence, community participation determines the sustainability of a project for community’s benefit.

This paper also noted that, community radio is usually managed by some stakeholders or foundation in a society. Therefore, there is several community radio ownership and in view of this, this paper argued that, not all community radio stations are owned by the intended locality or community. Forte FM radio station in Alice that is the focus of this paper was founded and managed by the University of Fort Hare and other Stakeholders but relied on donor funding to be managed.

Participation in the media and its effect for developmental project is an important characteristic of community media [3]. Categorized marginalized people’s involvement in the media into two interrelated forms; participation in the media and participation through the media. The difference between the two is that participation in the media is concerned with participation in the production of media programmes (content) and in media organizational decision making (structural participation) [3]. Stated that participation through the media involves opportunities to act as a peacemaker in a controversial discussion and participation in public debate and for self-representation in topical issues This view is also shared by Mawokomayi & Osunkunle (2019) who noted that listeners are very important stakeholders in community radio activities and that their views should always be sought for and considered towards a successful running of any community radio station.

Literature Review

Endogenous Participation

The last two decades have viewed an important shift in research and development models from the common, top-down models to more participatory, “grassroots” development models. This shift has occurred in parts because of perceived failure of many top-down models of development, as well as request from communities to be included in decision that affects them. Marginalized projects are often referred as demonstrating ‘participatory democracy’. Denotes that a shift towards the common, grassroots models of development can be determined if the models are “compatible with building the capacities of excluded individuals and redistributing power towards the least powerful”. Previous researchers have different opinion inclusive of [4]. Argued that our conceptualization of integrated rural development remains inadequate, and questions the uncritical use of development rhetoric such as capacity building; empowerment and participation [4].

This paper wants to note that participatory approaches to research and development could be criticized constructively based on the power of participatory design applied to solving, granting legal right or empowerment. In addition, significance of participatory approach is being determined by the proportion or level of participants, practitioners or professionals in academic developing and analysing the difficult nature of participatory philosophy and practice. On the other hand, Peripheral participation has been viewed as valid and legal choice utilized by community members. Participation could also be viewed as both “the means and the ends” of development. The nature of participation having many sides adds to the complexity of conducting, designing and evaluating participatory development projects. However, involving in participation enhances positive experiences and it’s always a social good for participants which could lead to empowerment.

This paper also wants to highlight that participation of listeners’ will enhance benefit, they gain more and the development effects are higher than if they are passive recipients, as is also argued in participatory approach. This paper thus wants to note that most active listeners are those who can itemize how the radio station had served, and its value to them on information about local happenings through the radio. It must also be noted that participatory communication also enhances, promote and revive cultural pride, self-esteem and identity in communities at the grassroots that are neglected over sometime. However, involvement of listeners’ in the public sphere will build participants whose voices count in the content. Where participation is inculcated as a dimension, people are involved in the process rather than being human subjects of social change campaigns [5]. Hence, involvement of participation in community radio stations emphasizes the predominance of ownership over mere access. The argument states that a communication process that is initiated and expressed by the community will promote equal opportunity to members [6].

Radio is a powerful tool in relation to communication and empowerment for active listeners. However, it is noted that if community members and listeners are not being empowered and fully engaged, participation is not being said to have taken place. Participation is essential for development and empowerment as described by amongst others [7]. Community radio is an alternative to the main stream media with a distinct preference and focus on a particular community, selected geographically or by interest. It is also portrayed as a development tool operated by indigenous or local citizens. It empowers listeners through education and knowledge, and creates opportunities to acquire new skills through vocational training which can enhance the common citizen’s capabilities, as well as creating access to the private and public sector. Hence, higher levels of participation results in tangible benefits for the participating individual and community.

According to Gaynor and O’Brien, (2017) community radio stations can be used as community resource for communication. Provide opportunities for the disadvantaged and rural communities to not only express themselves in their own language in a convenient manner and in ways they know how, but at the same time listen to their own voices (Megwa, 2007:52). Community radio encourages listeners’ participation by granting the common people opportunity to have their voices heard on air. Voice as used contextually connotes gaining access to communication technology gadget such as phone, which can be used as communication tools for community benefits. The premise of this paper is the idea that community radio is meant to be a development tool by ensuring listeners’ participation at every level of localized program presentation to enhance productivity. Therefore, these approaches are appropriate to this paper since community radio’s obligation requires trust and imaginative improvements in development-related messages. Hence, participatory communication should be adopted extensively by community radio station’s programming to enhance community capabilities and expand listeners’ understanding.

Uneven Participation in Media Content of Community Radio

Usefulness of listeners’ participation in radio broadcast and programming cannot be over-emphasized. Participation plays a vital role in community radio and when such platform like this does not exist then comes ups and down for development initiatives. Participation “comes in a variety of forms” (Zakus & Lysack, 2011:7). In line with the above, it’s not easy to come about development initiatives programmes that would be of great benefit to the media and community as a whole. To that end, grouped the common people’s involvement in media activities into two interrelated forms as, participation in the media and participation through the media. This forms of participation are not similar by content “participation in the media deals with participation in the production of media output (contentrelated participation) and in media organizational decisionmaking (structural participation)” [3]. In another development, “participation through the media deals with the opportunities for mediated participation in public debate and for selfrepresentation in the variety of public spaces that characterize the social”[3].

Further asserts and expatiates the differences in minimalist and maximalist form of participation. In the minimalist form of participation “media professionals retains strong control over process and outcome, restricting participation to access and interaction, to the degree that one wonders whether the concept of participation is still appropriate”. Minimalist form of participation from the above statement implies a way of misinforming or misleading people (community) with the notion of establishment while reducing power simultaneously. In a related view, in the maximalist form, “the consensusoriented models of democracy (and participation) emphasize the importance of dialogue and deliberation and focus on collective decision-making based on rational argument a’ la Habermas in a public sphere’ [3]. Hence, Carpentier’s contrast gives expository clue on the discourse. However, they symbolize a set of sequence of participation that can be found on Arnsteins (2020) ladder of citizen participation. In addition to the above claims, Arnsteins ladder of citizen participation is in sequence with non nonparticipation at the lower end of the ladder, token participation in the middle and citizen power at the apex [1]. As shown in Figure 1 below, these stages of participation is based on different levels (Figure 1).


Figure 1 Ladder of participation (Arnstein 2020).

The above ladder of participation could be interpreted as follows, “In non-participation” there is no participation and the aim is to “enable power holders to “educate” or “cure” the participants” [1]. Non-participation is equivalent to Carpenters’ minimalist participation. “Token participation” entails informing, consultation and placation. Here opinions are sought on development initiatives but excluded at implementing and decision-making stage. “Citizen Power” is the apex stage of participation where the marginalized communities are given fair treatment without any prejudice or preferential treat and are involved in decision-making processes and resources. This is also in line with Carpentier’s (2011) maximalist participation. Klees et al (1986) argue that, for advocate of grassroots development, participation has become the benchmark of measuring the effectiveness of grassroots processes. This paper therefore, apply Arnstein’s ladder of participation as standard of judgement for exploring listeners’ participation in media content of Forte FM radio. Arnsteins ladder gives us an insight and criteria on how to assess listeners’ or community participation in and through the media. This will aid on how to explore listeners ‘participation in media content of Forte FM radio.

This paper also wants to establish that, community radio stations managed by donor funds are definitely influenced by the donors. Hence, people or community participation is declined in its activities and programming and in some documents it was questioned if participation in such contexts is genuine (Bessette, 2004). On the other hand, considering the tokenism level on Arnstein’s ladder of participation which gives an insight that community radio encourages participation at different levels The question addressed in this paper is whether there are other forms or ways by which Forte FM could explore listeners’ in its media content connected with different levels of participation. In addition, the effect of listeners’ participation in media content of Forte FM can be determined by the degree or rate of the commons’ participation in its media programmes.

Obviously, the apex (highest) level is embedded with the utmost power in implementation and participation in media. Hence, participatory approach makes power equality to be minimal; it “requires specific attention to not only the knowledge, institutions and best practices of professionals, but also the knowledge, institutions and best practice of communities”. This is one of the issue that community radios, and Forte FM in particular as a participatory medium has to resolve in order to reach citizen power.

Another issue facing community radio is how to be evenly participatory, by being focus on collective decision making (maximalist) in carrying the local people along with development agents and vice versa. This paper wants to note that Forte FM must always ensure participation of listeners’ at every levels of programme presentation to enhance productivity and in situations where reverse is the case it makes it challenging.

In the line with the above, disempowering listener’s from participating will hinder the facilitation of community communication and promotion of local developments initiatives.

Theoretical Framework

This paper is underpinned by content- related participation. According to [8]. Community radio is a social process or event in which members of the community associate together to design programme and produce to air them, thus taking on the primary role of actors in their own destiny. It was reported that in the running of a radio, we take part when we present our programmes to others about how we have benefited from adopting modern health sector awareness, but also when we learn from programmes produced by fellow health programmer. Hence, we are taking part in helping the radio’s development with our programmes. Therefore, it is the local people’s voice that is heard in the programmes of community radio stations.

As reported by [9]. Participation is used in an optimistic sense with regard to the empowering role of community media production and organization management. When ordinary people participate in programme production it can be seen as the most empowering aspect of community radio. By granting the listeners’ such opportunities, community radio is living up to expectation by meeting one of its objectives. Thus, Osunkunle, (2008) opined that, it is important that community radio stations involves their listeners’ in programming, content development and management of the station if they are to fulfil their broadcasting mandate and bring total development to the communities being served.

Programme production by ordinary people could come to play in two forms, firstly, if community radio producer get involved in the activities of listeners’ by recording the activities and programme audio clips which can be aired to everyone. Secondly, if listeners’ are able to produce and record their localized programmes with the aid of their cell phones and send the audio clips through social media to the radio station for programme production or as a form of programme jingle for public awareness which will increase community’s participation. Hence, these will motivate ordinary people’s participation and enhance community development. In addition, all these will enhance the radio station’s feedback mechanism and productivity. In line with the above claims, ordinary people get involved on the level of participation based on access to technical facilities and production resources [10]. Hence, this standard of participation can be regarded as partnership which affords ordinary people the opportunity to contribute in the programming of the community radio station.

In a related view, exploring listeners’ participation in media content of Forte FM is strongly established by participatory communication theory which holds that, individuals are involved in the decision making, programming and broadcasting of information relevant to the development of the community. It is a model that emerged in the 1970s and gained its popularity in the 1980s. It emerged as a counter balance to theories such as cultural imperialism [11]. Participatory communication is defined as that type of communication in which all the interlocutors are free and have equal access to the means to express their viewpoints, feelings and experiences [12]. Participatory communication theory therefore, promotes the involvement of communities in media broadcasting and eliminates one- way flow of information as in modernization paradigm.

Osunkunle (2008) reveals campus based station (community radio) as a community participatory radio, and that it is a tool for community development through generation of knowledge and sharing. Hence, this paper aims to explore listeners’ participation in media content and development of Forte FM radio, to see the kind of interactions that exist between Forte FM and its listeners’. In respect to the primary roles that Forte FM plays in a community amongst which are; serving as a medium and means of sending and receiving information, empowered to reach a large heterogeneous audience simultaneously and penetrates to the remote rural areas in Alice suburb regions. This paper wants to establish that Forte FM radio improves the welfare of its listeners’ by performing the major characteristics and functions a community radio serves which are to educate, inform, entertain and persuade it’s listeners’ amongst others in community development. Communication as the life of a community has been examined by different scholars [13]. For instance, were of the views that media such as Forte FM should be able to communicate development initiatives to community members and also provide a platform for them to engage on development issues that affect them. In this case, Forte FM radio is the message sender and the listeners’ are the receivers. This means that effective communication is being determined by senders and receivers in mass communication. While in mass media, the people in the media are always curious in talking than listening and this undermines the level at which people communicate. This also makes people to be voiceless not because they have nothing to say, but because nobody cares to listen to them [14]. This is one of the challenges a development initiatives programme or work encounters in the course of carrying out a developmentrelated project in a community, withholding information meant for the recipients for development projects.

This paper wants to note that participatory communication focuses on trust to and listening as would-be recipients of development are able to voice out their concerns and need, and also trust the initiators of development projects who in turn are willing to listen to the voice of such communities. This means that development projects must not just be carved or initiated by government or other development agencies, but that such initiators must first visit, meet with and listen to such needy communities or people. This therefore, helps to reduce the social distance between communicators and receivers [14].

Typical communication theories stipulate that passing across message to a heterogeneous audience in relation to development and social change, not necessarily useful. Servaes et al (1996), concluded the statement with this notion that mass communication is less likely than personal influence to have a direct effect on social behavior [14]. In addition, the participatory model of communication emphasizes the significance of cultural identity of the common in an identified society and government by all the people and participation at all levels, down-top participation, international, national, local, and individual [14]. Participatory model focuses on the receiver (listeners’) of the message than linear model. This is also applicable in this paper, as members of the community need to be incorporated and actively involved in the programming and genres of Forte FM radio programmes. Servaes (2015), asserted that participatory model and “another development” approach are two sides of same coin, and also Tsarwe (2014) views reveals that, freedom of speech should be an equal right for all citizen irrespective of one’s status. Servaes & Lie,( 2015) expanded the above points by adding that participatory model could be viewed in two different approaches, the (UNESCO, 2005) and the approach considering access, participation and self-management.

Servaes and Lie, (2015) have put forward their views on participatory approaches, Freire opined on “the oppressed” while UNESCO used the common word “the public”. The UNESCO approach portrays the media as communication tools and agent. Self-management is the apex stage in this approach which presents the public as managers who oversees the community media as well as its services. In contrary, the Friesian (1996) approach describes the audience as participators and not as recipients, strives to check and balance power from top-down to down-top participation, which aim to a sort of change in control of the media, and treat everyone fairly without any preference to status in the society. On the other hand, the UNESCO approach is not based on power structure but communication agents or tools.


This paper made use of qualitative research method and descriptive research approach to explore listeners’ participation in media content and development activities of community radio. Berg (2004) notes that qualitative research is adopted in many ways when dealing with several types of enquiries to aid understanding and thereby explaining the meaning of a social phenomenon, by providing a picture of a situation as it unfolds. Therefore, to explore listener’s participation in the media content of Forte FM radio, people’s voice must be sampled qualitatively. In this paper, descriptive research approach was adopted to explore listener’s views. Focus group discussion was conducted among the residents of Golf Course and Ntselamanzi both in Alice, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. To elicit a comprehensive data from the participants in respect of the paper, two focus group discussions were conducted comprising of eight (8) purposively selected participants from each residential area making a total of 16 participants involved, ranging from the ages of 18 to 65, comprising both male and female. The sampling frame focus only on listeners of the community radio station who are active listeners’ of Forte FM radio programmes. The focus group discussions enabled the paper to compliment and gathered a wide range of views on listeners’ participation in media content and development activities of Forte FM radio. With the aid of a trained paper assistant, the focus group discussion was conducted in IsiXhosa, which is the commonly used language in the community and then interpreted into English Language.


Golf Course focus group participant’s views on listeners’ participation in media content development of Forte FM radio station

The responses gathered from Golf Course focus group discussion portrays that Forte FM is a well-known community radio station which helps to inform and educate its listener’s through its programming activities. This was revealed by Forte FM listener while the focus group discussion at Golf Course was on-going. When questioned to know if they do participate in media content and development programmes of Forte FM, participant 1 from the Golf Course focus group said that:

“I listen to the radio station on regular basis most especially when I am on break at work, and before I go to bed. However, listeners’ are always encouraged to participate when programmes are on air. Listeners’ greetings, shout-out and simple conversations are usually welcomed on their programmes in Isixhosa Language”.

Participant 2 noted that:

“I am an active participant in Forte FM radio programmes because it is the only community radio located at my locality, where I can get community based news. However, Forte FM communicates in our local dialect mostly which makes us feel at home”.

The evaluation of the statement above implies that Forte FM community radio encourages and accommodates listeners’ participation in its media content. The general view of all the participants from Golf Course focus group discussion was that Forte FM serves the community interest. This view is also supported by Mwaniki, et al. (2017), who noted that community radio stations are classified as small scale decentralized broadcasting initiatives which are easily accessed by local people, actively encouraged their participation in programming and which include some elements of community ownership or membership. From the above reflections it was confirmed that Forte FM listener’s participate in some programmes of Forte FM radio station.

Ntselamanzi focus group participant’s view on listeners’ participation in media content development of Forte FM radio station

The views gathered from Ntselamanzi residential area to know if listeners’ participate in media content of Forte FM were also similar to Golf Course participant’s views, participant 1 actually opined that:

“I usually tune to the radio stations morning ride where listeners are being updated with the situation report in the community and neighbouring villages or town. The accessibility of Forte FM’s reception has motivated me to be involved in their entertaining and informative programmes”.

Participant 2 also said that:

“The radio station always broadcast community’s needs and economic development programmes without any break in transmission across the rural communities in Nkonkobe municipality and this encourages me to keep tuning to all their programmes which are mainly communicated in IsiXhosa Language for our benefits”.

This view is also supported by Goswamy and Kashyap (2018), who observed that local media are important for social and economic development because they are familiar with the needs of local areas, and allow access to the media. This therefore, confirmed that Forte FM community radio’s bandwidth is well received to motivate listeners’ participation in its programmes.

Golf Course focus group participant’s view on how often they participate in contributing to media content of Forte FM

The general views of the participants at Ntselamanzi focus group discussion was related to that of Golf Course. However, this paper asked the focus group participants at Golf Course how often they participate in contributing to media content of Forte FM? Most of the Golf Course group participants revealed that Forte FM programmes are always on air on regular basis. Their programmes educate, inform and entertain listeners’. Participant 3 revealed that:

“The radio station works on 24 hours daily, and gives room to add some comments and suggestion on daily basis through public announcement, on- line platform, which is an unlimited avenue for listeners’ interaction and participation”.

In addition, participant 4 attested to the regularity of her participation in media content of Forte FM. She expressed herself by saying:

“Yes, they involve listeners’ at all time. I always participate in their morning programmes. My mother also honours the radio station’s invitation as a guest in public sphere to enlighten the public on topical matters”.

In a nut shell, Golf Course focus group participants revealed that Forte FM allowed its listener’s to actively participate in its media content development, which makes its media content relevant to their media needs and aspirations. This view is also supported by Osunkunle (2008), who noted that community radio stations ought to provide platforms for listeners to contribute to issues that affect them, so that they are part of their development. The participatory theory also noted that listeners are to participate regularly in community radio activities, to have the station and to be a community radio indeed [14].

Ntselamanzi focus group participant’s view on how often they participate in contributing to media content of Forte FM

The views gathered from Ntselamanzi residential area on how often listeners’ participate in contributing to media content of Forte FM was related to that of Golf Course. Participant 3 said that:

“Forte FM operates at a bandwidth which is accessible in these selected areas of the paper, and so the reception is always audible. The accessibility of the radio programmes encourages listener’s involvement in the media content of the radio station”.

A community radio reception must be audible without any obstruction to its audience so as to enhance effective communication. Forte FM bandwidth was reflected from the above focus group report to be easily accessed by its audience. This view is also supported by Costa, et al (2013), who argued that top-down approach to building coming community radio will ultimately result to developmental sector whose incentives and purpose will ultimately move away from accepted definition and understanding of community radio. Alternative media are established for the people by the people, to empower the common group of people by enabling them controlling the contents and operations of the radio station.

Golf Course focus group participants’ view on participating in the activities of Forte FM

It was important to find out from the participants if they do participate in the activities of the radio station, and in response to this, participant 5 opined that:

“Yes, the community radio involves listeners in their programming through phone-in programmes. We are not involved in the planning of the programmes but we only participate when issues or questions are raised and we contribute by calling in with our mobile phones and through the social medium platforms, or make comments on Facebook page, Whatsapp and we always make “shout–out” to our friends in our indigenous language through our phone when a programme is on-going. We also make selection of the type of music we like to listen to, to suit our interest”.

Additionally, participant 6 at Golf course focus group discussion suggested that the radio station does not involve listeners in its activities as expected, he stressed that:

“The radio station ought to mandate its role as a community radio by seeking the community’s view before programme was presented”.

Majority of the participants sums it well by commending Forte FM radio station on its act to public debate which motivates special guest who always enlighten the listener’s on air most especially on health issues [15]. This view is also supported by who opined that the innovations of new digital technologies with radio will enhance the ability of ICTs to contribute to development outcomes by facilitating and expanding opportunities for participation in alternative media.

Goggin and Clark (2009) noted that a lot of people have access and make use of mobile phones; the grassroots individuals have great opportunity to use mobile phone to meet their communication needs.

Ntselamanzi focus group participant’s view on participating in the activities of Forte FM

In the same vein, the focus group discussion at Ntselamanzi is closely tied to Golf Course focus group discussion which elucidated the opinions of the participants regarding their participation in the activities of Forte FM radio station. Asides from the involvement of the listeners in phone-in-programmes, participant 4 from Ntselamanzi focus group said that:

“I am an active listener of Forte FM radio. He emphasized that he usually get involved in the entertainment programmes of the radio station by calling the presenter often for his favourite music. Hence, listeners’ are involved in writing of letters and production of some prelude musical contents which can suit the presentation of programme locally”.

This opinion was buttressed by participant 5 in the course of the focus group discussion, who also said that:

“The presenters are community friendly and usually present pressing issues that affect the community as a whole. He also noted that, the community radio involves listeners in all its public sphere programs by asking for suggestion from listener’s on how their programs could be more impactful. The radio station always broadcast community news across the rural communities in Nkonkobe municipality and this encourages me to keep tuning to all their programmes which are mainly communicated in IsiXhosa language for our benefits”.

From the responses above, it is obvious that the community radio’s entertainment programme is often conceptualized with little listener’s involvement in programming and interaction [8]. Notes that when programme contents are produced without the participation or involvement of listeners, then there comes a problem as the programme would not benefit the listeners’. This view is also supported by [9]. Who notes that, it is the local people’s voice that is heard mostly in programming of community radio station? When marginalized group of people participate in programme production it can be seen as the most empowering aspect of community radio.

Golf Course focus group participant’s view on development activities that increases listeners’ participation

When inquired about their opinion on some development activities that can increase listener’s participation, the participants were of the view that it is the community in community radio - the community radio cannot live to expectation without the community. Participant 7 suggested that;

“Forte FM radio has being helpful in provision of social amenities and urges the radio station to ensure it is evenly distribution to the community, but emphasized that a lot has to be done in order to increase listener’s participation on the part of the radio station. By establishing some groups of people, consisting members of the community in form of a committee who can give useful contributions and programme idea to the radio stations programming. By so doing, members of the community would be granted the opportunity to increase their participation in the activities of the radio station”.

Participant 8 noted again that: “If Forte FM radio could invite members of the community through the publicity medium of the community into meeting where programming issues are to be discussed, I think this would increase the audience and participation of the radio station”.

This view is also supported by [16]. Who opined that community radio needs to be not only a channel to transmit to people, but also a means of receiving from them; not only an instrument to hear from or about the world, but the people’s voice, to make their voices heard.

Ntselamanzi focus group participant’s view on development activities that increases listeners’ participation

When inquired about their opinion on development activities that increase listeners’ participation, much of what was said at Golf course focus group discussion were closely tied to the views at Ntselamanzi. However, the participants revealed that the community radio can increase listener’s participation in the community through their development initiatives. Ntselamanzi focus group participant 6 said that:

“Forte FM radio station should organize and increase its staff strength and organize training for the staffs, so that they can educate the community properly and invite more important personalities to their programming”. The community radio station can increase listener’s participation by sending letters to the community where their views can be sought on a particular issue bordering the community through musical requests, greetings as well as phone-in-programmes”.

Participant 7 adds that: “The radio station should also go directly to the communities and ask them about their community needs so as to meet their pressing needs”.

This opinion was buttressed by participant 8 who noted that: “The radio station should organize listening clubs where interesting issues will be addressed to increase listenership rate and broadens the listener’s knowledge in relevant areas. He also adds that Forte FM radio station should try and organize a form of relieve materials or gift to their listener’s to encourage more participation”.

Most of the participants also said that, the community radio needs to intensify more efforts on the community’s needs and empowerment programme in order to increase its listenership rate.

This shows that participation is essential for development and empowerment through community radio. Listener’s participation in radio broadcast and programming is very important in community radio and when such platforms do not exist then comes a decrease in development and listenership rate of the concern radio station. This view is also supported by [12]. Who argued that, for advocates of grassroots developments, participation has become the benchmark for measuring the effectiveness of grassroots processes?


From the data collected for this paper, the adoption of indigenous language as a major medium of communication by Forte FM to its audience enhances listeners’ exploration to its media content development. World Bank argues that community media assist the common to interchange information in indigenous languages, motivates debate on developmental initiatives and encourage ordinary people to identify and get more opportunities (World Bank Group, 2004 cited in Panos, 2005:20). The use of local dialect for broadcasting accommodates everyone and makes them feel at home as attested by the participants in the course of data gathering. It also broadens their understanding on the intended message to be passed a crossed.

In accordance to language and constitutional framework of South-Africa, regarding its birth of democracy in 1994, reflects its constitutional policy of official multilingualism, thus stated nine major African Languages to complement English and Afrikaans nationally, including Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, IsiXhosa and Zulu. However, the utilization of IsiXhosa Language by Forte FM presenters to its communities, encourages access to participation in all the programming of Forte FM radio. A language is marketable if it has the potentials to serve as a tool and means of which its users can meet their material needs. Hence, IsiXhosa language is a vital instrument Forte FM radio uses to meet the communication and material needs of Golf Course and Ntselamanzi residences in Nkonkobe Municipality.

This paper wants to note that, the availability of Forte FM as the only community radio affords the communities an access to have their voices counted beyond their jurisdiction, thereby expands their access to what they value doing. In line with section 29 (2) of South Africa Constitution which stated that; everyone has the rights to receive education in the official language or languages of her choice in public educational institutions, where that education is reasonably practicable. This implies that, receiving educative information from Forte FM in IsiXhosa Language is considered as an access of exploring listeners’ participation in media content of Forte FM.

In respect to the paper participants view, indigenous language (IsiXhosa) was a key factor in attracting Forte FM listeners’. This is for the fact that, the radio station broadcast mainly in local dialect to its heterogeneous audience, so as to ensure effective communication to all irrespective of one’s status and class. This was portrayed in their involvement in the programmes of the radio station through writing of letters, phone-in-programmes on air, musical request, greetings, dedications, and simple conversations.

This paper wants to establish that the focus group discussions portrayed community radio as a vital instrument to integrate the grassroots populace. The literature examined also reported that radio is one of the most common electronic devices for receiving information. It was shown in this paper that community citizen are not involved in production of media output and organizational decision-making, but participate in public spheres and debate forums. They are engaged as guest presenters for topical issues in radio programmes production, as well as participating through Forte FM’s social platform. Listener’s call-in when a programme is being broadcasted, through comments, suggestions, greetings and musical request amongst others. Giving these scenarios, significantly, Arnstein (2020) ladder of citizen participation and Carpentiers (2011), minimalist and maximalist versions of participation best justified listener’s participation in media content and development of Forte FM radio station. Obviously, community radio generally and Forte FM in particular is being used to expand ordinary people’s capabilities.

Additionally, the opinion of listener’s on development activities that can increase participation in media content of Forte FM radio station shows that the gap that exist between Forte FM radio station and its listener’s is not fully filled in terms of “citizen’s power”. This therefore implies that maximalist participation is lacking in Forte FM radio station against the notion of participatory theory of communication that emphasized on listener’s involvement in community media programming.


This study looked at listeners’ participation in media content of Forte FM radio. The focus group discussions portrayed radio as a vital instrument to integrate the grassroots populace. However, the findings of this paper suggests that listeners’ participation in media content of community radio, participation in media organizational decision making and participation in media output in particular, are not only the avenues that determines the development activities of a community, but participation in and through the community radio which entails establishing and managing the radio station. Invariably, other forms of participation denotes getting actively involved at every level programme presentation just as pointed out in this paper that listener’s only get involved in the programming of the radio station through shout-outs to friends, online platforms and public sphere programmes. In addition, the radio station receiving programme ideas from its listener’s which can be conceptualized for the betterment of both the listener’s and the radio station through feedback mechanism. Hence, this paper highlights the need for listeners’ participation in media content and development activities of community radio to enable the marginalized communities promote democratic participation, by encouraging ordinary people to become involved in identifying and defining community problems and finding solutions to those problems to give room for bottom-top participation as pointed out by Myers, 2011.


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