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Back | Programme Area: Technology and Society (2000 - 2009)

Radio Broadcasting and New Information and Communication Technologies: Uses, Challenges and Prospects (Draft)

Saidou Dia's paper deals with the cultural and political challenges of new communication and information dissemination technologies in Senegal. The study recalls that the explosive development of radio broadcasting occurred in a favourable environment, allowing it to rapidly become the most popular information and communication medium, as well as the cultural expression with which the country's various populations feel most aligned.

Initially at the service of the colonial administration, radio progressively assumed a set of "missions" relating to various political, economic and cultural challenges that have dominated the country's social and political evolution.

In the early 1990s, the emergence of so-called short-range radio (non-commercial, community and associative stations) heralded a major break in the radio tradition and the national information system. With FM transmission, these new stations provided improved broadcast quality and listening, and the medium took a step in its evolution to greater professionalism. The appearance of these stations on the media landscape brought increased competition and ended the state monopoly. The systematic use of the country's native languages—rehabilitated as natural supporters, conveyors and disseminators of information for listeners with limited command of French—along with the use of new communication technologies (telephone, computers, etc.) allowed these stations to create a more user-friendly form of communication and contributed to the "democratization" of radio communication.

Beyond these changes, popular enthusiasm for short-range radio stations reflected the emergence of a new paradigm of alternative communication that has restored people's desire to appropriate a technology for disseminating information and culture for which they feel an increasing affinity. These stations have greatly contributed to a growing sense of "active citizenship," particularly when major political choices are being made. However, Dia believes that these radio stations will have to deal with the weakness of radio journalism and their characteristic tendency to become standardized. They will also have to address evident deficiencies in the quality of programming. Dealing with these issues is all the more imperative in a world of Internet and satellite broadcasting (such as the WorldSpace prototype), as a growing number of radio stations apply a global perspective and explore new opportunities in the desire to conquer increasingly supranational "virtual communities”.

This is the draft English translation of Dia's contribution to the volume Le Sénégal à l'heure de l'information: Technologies et société (edited by Momar-Coumba Diop, Editions Karthala, Paris and UNRISD, Geneva, 2002).

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