Spectrum for the common man: the public use of the electromagnetic spectrum through community radio and the mobile phone

Janey Gordon (University of Bedfordshire, UK)

The theme of this paper is that the public have regained access to the electromagnetic spectrum by the use of community radio and mobile telephony and that both these media enhance democratic discussion and political activism. Community radio is defined as a radio station being run primarily by volunteers, on a not-for-profit basis and for an audience which may be a distinct geographic community or a community of interest within an area. In the UK, community radio has an obligation under regulatory terms, to provide social gain by its broadcasts and off-air work. In other countries community radio does not necessarily carry the same obligations but still tends to provide an altruistic content for its target population. Alongside these developments, over the last 10 years mobile, or cell, telephony has been the fastest area of growth in the new media technologies. Its distinctive feature is the ability for the user to move from place to place while using the handset, to be literally mobile. This is combined with an increased efficiency of electromagnetic spectrum use, enabling more than a third of the global population to use a mobile phone handset. A significant aspect of the development of mobile telephony is the way that users have exploited its additional features in ways that were not anticipated by the manufacturers or service providers. It is argued that this indicates that the mobile phone is more than a simple communications tool. It is a popular cultural artefact and may act as the interface of popular insurgence and citizen journalism. At first these two forms of communication media appear to be disparate. However it is argued that there are synergies between them.

Timing - Saturday - Panel Session G2
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