Luís Bonixe no Colloque International du Groupe de Recherches et d’ Etudes sur la Radio (GRER)

Especialista em rádio, professor do Escola Superior de Educação de Portalegre e investigador integrado do CIC.Digital NOVA FCSH, apresentou a comunicação “Local radio in Portugal – a resilient public service in the Internet era”, no Colloque International du Groupe de Recherches et d’Etudes sur la Radio (GRER), que decorreu de 16 a 19 de novembro, em França.

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Local radio in Portugal – a resilient public service in the Internet era

Portuguese local radio represent one of the largest citizenship movements in Portugal. In the 1970s and 80s of the 20th century, hundreds of small local broadcasters emerged searching for a space for information that they did not find on national radios. Although they were private projects, and at the initial stage broadcasted without a license, they were seen as public service projects, as they enabled local communities to access information they had not previously had.

Rapidly, local radios obtained a great acceptance from populations that saw in these radios a space for the reproduction of their local and community experiences, such as it hapenned in the most of the european countries (Starkey, 2011, Flichy, 1981, Eco, 1981). Local radios also symbolically represented a space of freedom that the country had recently conquered (Portugal lived in a regime of dictatorship until 1974).

Thus, portuguese local radio represent the public media space to local communities through local information, local culture, and as a plataform for the debate of community issues, caractheristics that made local radios diferent from national ones (Chantler&Harris, 1997). They are, from this point of view, a service that is provided to the public which was fundamental for the consolidation of the democratic process in Portugal.

 In spite of this, the affirmation process of local radios in Portugal has not been easy. Portuguese local radio were legalized in 1988 and contrary to what was expected, the legalization of local radio stations in Portugal has not brought peace to the sector (Mesquita, 1994; Bonixe, 2010). Quite the contrary. With legalization, came to the top several problems that would complicate the live of portuguese local radio in the years following.

Indeed, with the end of the period of euphoria that swept the country from north to south, culminating in the much desired legalization of pirate stations, began the complex process of managing these projects.

The development of local media companies in Portugal has not been an easy task. The reasons for this persistent crisis are of cultural, social and, most of all, economic nature. Portugal has a very specific geographic profile with clear asymmetries between the coast and the interior and, therefore, different levels of acceleration and economic development between regions. Media organizations in Portugal operate in a highly segmented context, which means that there is no room for a great number of radios to operate in these markets. Local radio stations are clear examples of it. Projects were approved in several of the country’s municipalities in order to have two or three stations working and sharing the same meager advertising market. The consequences are the closing of some of the radio stations, selling others to larger radio stations or just changing to less costly programming formats, such as music ones, neglecting the newscasts and local journalism.

Considering this context, is portuguese local radio as a public service in danger?

In recent years, local radios have faced new challenges as a result of a new Internet-dominated media ecosystem. How this migration to digital platforms, in particular the Internet and social network, has made it possible to maintain or deepen their initial mission of proximity to local communities And thus underline their role as community service to the public?

In the present communication we look for some answers to this question from the analysis of a set of interviews conducted to journalists of local portuguese radios. In these interviews, we explored a number of topics, including: 1) the role of local radios in the 21st century, 2) how they manage to maintain their proximity to local populations, taking into account their organizational constraints, 3) The Internet can contribute to maintaining a public service logic for these radios.