Talking Culture: Indonesian Community Radio and the Active Audience

By Sujoko, Anang | Social Alternatives, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Talking Culture: Indonesian Community Radio and the Active Audience

Sujoko, Anang, Social Alternatives

Community radio as a part of the Indonesian broadcasting system is concerned with sustaining aspects of local culture and everyday life. Balai Budaya Minomartani (BBM) FM is one of many community radio stations in Indonesia preserving Javanese local culture, including ethnic song (macapat and campur sari), traditional drama (wayang orang), leather shadow puppet shows (wayang kulit) and Javanese languages as well. This study explores how BBM FM involves its community members in the interactive campursari local music program, Mbahtro Mulur, to sustain traditional Javanese culture. I use conversation analysis (CA) to show how this rich and complex dialogue is enacted through music/talk radio, and to reveal how local perspectives and community values are called into expression in these night-time radio programs.


Indonesian community radio was born in the midst of hectic social and political times, in the euphoria of newlywon freedom of information. In 2002, the government endorsed the Indonesia Broadcasting Act No. 32/2002 that admitted community media, television and radio as a part of the national broadcasting system, adding to commercial and public stations as legal broadcasting institutions. The Indonesian private radio broadcasting association (PRSSNI) is the only authority that can release radio licences. A number of political and funding requirements for broadcast licences mean that not all communities enjoy the right to receive broadcast content that meets their needs. Meanwhile RRI (Radio Republik Indonesia) and RKPD (Radio Khusus Pemerintah Daerah) continue to produce public radio fully controlled by the government (Sujoko 2005). In this article I argue that community radio allows for expression of a community voice. Community radio stations preserve traditional culture (Forde, Meadow and Foxwell 2003). This research demonstrates how one local station is re-building a local community through its programming.

Community radio in Indonesia is working in interesting ways to engage audiences in activities that help sustain traditional culture(s). A night-time Javaneselanguage music program, Mbahtro Mulur, on BBM-FM community radio, broadcasting in the local language to the Minomartani region of Java, shows how conversation between on-air presenters and listener-callers, and even the lyrics of the music selections, build a dialogue that re-asserts traditional Javanese social and cultural values. Music radio not only enhances audience appreciation of deep cultural behaviours and values but extends their influence, through the mobile networks of modern communication, into specific local contexts, potentially integrating new and emerging social issues with stillstrong cultural perspectives.

Applying close language analysis within the Sacksian tradition of conversation analysis (Sacks 1992; Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson 1974) to Javanese and Indonesian, I suggest that community radio has unrecognised potential as a cultural mediator for cultural innovation, policy implementation and social change. In many of these largely unexamined 'local' spaces, community radio is developing programming techniques and endorsing cultural participation in ways that could be adapted for use in related media formats, including online and mobile media, community television and even commercial broadcast services.

Community Radio in Java: BBM-FM

As an Indonesian community radio station, BBM-FM is charged with establishing close, active relationships with local audiences through its use of media volunteers and the ways it serves its community. Like most community broadcasters, BBM-FM sponsors and participates in both on-air programs and non-broadcast cultural activities, building a close connection between station personnel and members of the community it serves. It is an established convention of the radio medium that it creates a high degree of interpersonal intimacy within its communicative relations (see especially Matheson 1933; McLuhan 1964).

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Talking Culture: Indonesian Community Radio and the Active Audience


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