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Community radio as a tool for development: a case study of community radio stations in Malawi

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posted on 2015-06-29, 15:05 authored by Peter Matthews Mhagama
The thesis investigates community radio as a tool for development drawing on case studies of Nkhotakota and Mzimba community radio stations in Malawi. The thesis employs communication for development and ‘another’ development theories to help understand the role of community radio in development. The research aims are firstly, to investigate the extent and ways in which community radio is used as a tool for development through audience participation; and secondly to examine the extent to which communication for development in community radio in Malawi takes the form of participatory communication. Using the case study approach (Yin, 2009), the thesis specifically examines the functions of participation in development through community radio; whether community radio can encourage development through enhancing capabilities and participation even when people do not own and manage the stations; how radio listening Clubs (RLCs) help to expand people’s capabilities; and how the programming of community radio in Malawi is influenced by the agendas of development agencies. Arnstein’s (1969) ladder of participation and Carpentier’s (2011) minimalist and maximalist versions of participation are adopted as criteria for evaluating the different levels of participation in and through community radio. The findings show that community radio in Malawi firstly, affords ordinary people opportunities to participate in the media and in development projects and, secondly informs people about development initiatives from development agencies. Although these functions overlap, the thesis finds that community radio stations in Malawi concentrate more on the latter. The programming of the stations is influenced by the agendas of development agents who sponsor programmes thereby reducing opportunities for participation. However, although people’s participation in the media is low or reduced, there are other ways in which through the media, people can benefit, enhance their capabilities and through which development agencies can reach their goals. The thesis argues that the radio stations fit well with an approach to development related to building capabilities (Sen, 1992) because they sometimes give people resources to enhance their capabilities and sometimes act as partners with development agencies and government, facilitating a variety of development goals. The thesis concludes that community radio in Malawi enables capabilities although very rarely through fully-fledged participation.



Lunt, Peter; Moylan, Katie

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Media and Communication

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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    University of Leicester Theses