Radio for Development

Robert Huesca

Trinity University

Radio for development is the strategic use of this medium to effect social changes beneficial to a community, nation, or region. Within the study and practice of communication for national development and social change, radio has claimed a prominent place as it obviates the need for a literate audience, is inexpensive and widely accessible in poor, rural areas, and is cost-effective for donor agencies to produce and distribute.

‘Modernization’ theory constituted the dominant paradigm of early development communication efforts and focused on the mere exposure to radio and on the diffusion of ‘good information’ as ‘magic multipliers’ of development and as the gateways to ‘empathy’ and social mobility (→ Diffusion of Information and Innovation). For modernization theorists, radio, along with other mass media, was considered an ‘index of development’ measurable by such things as → UNESCO-issued standards for media sufficiency of the 1960s of five radios per 100 inhabitants as a measure of minimal development.

The dominant paradigm was challenged in the 1970s by a confluence of intellectual and social factors, including: (1) the work of Paolo Freire on dialogic pedagogy; (2) dependency theory’s critique of capitalism; and (3) liberation theology’s option for the poor. All of these movements reacted against the top-down, modernization model of development and called for participatory, grassroots communication approaches ...

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