By Dr Amanda Krause

Globally, we’re facing a ‘loneliness epidemic’. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to emphasize growing concerns about loneliness and the mental and physical wellbeing challenges it creates. In this time of increased isolation around the world, research I began a few years ago examining the role of the radio is more relevant than ever.

In 2017, I began researching how the radio fits into people’s lives in order to consider how engaging with the radio may improve wellbeing and quality of life. This was focused on older adults, but in 2019 I joined up with Professor John Hajek and Dr Anya Lloyd-Smith to examine the role of community language radio in promoting individual and community wellbeing amongst members of migrant communities in Australia. As a part of this work, we are also interested in the role of creativity in radio practices.

Our first study looked at the practices of presenters from 3ZZZ, one of Australia’s largest community language stations based in Melbourne, Victoria. As an ethnic, volunteer-based, community radio station, 3ZZZ broadcasts in around 70 languages weekly, offering programs for over 60 ethnic groups. With so many languages and cultures represented, 3ZZZ is an ideal case study for our research.

What we’ve found so far is that language, culture, and community are central to the radio presenters’ involvement as well as the station’s impact on the presenters, the listening audience, and their communities. 3ZZZ provides a platform for media representation for both presenters and listeners to connect to their local and home culture and communities, their language, and their identity — there’s a real element of community-building folded into the radio practices. And when asked about being creative, the presenters emphasized the process of how the content is produced. So we can understand creativity using a process-based lens — this means that creativity in community language broadcasting is not simply referring to a presenter’s personality trait or that the end product is new or innovative, rather it is the acts that people do that are creative. The freedom and flexibility of the community radio format affords the presenters the opportunity to be creative in how they construct, produce, and perform their programming. This, in turn, has implications for the presenters’ own wellbeing as well as the well-being of the station’s listeners.

From what the presenters said, it is clear that involvement in ethnic radio promotes Ruud’s four aspects of well-being: a sense of vitality, a sense of agency, a sense of belonging, and a sense of coherence and meaning. This makes a lot of sense to me — the findings mirror what is often reported with regard to music engagement (I’ve been studying the influence of music on wellbeing throughout my research career). What’s even more interesting is how the presenters are not only recipients, but also conduits, helping to promote the wellbeing of others and their communities. This is most clearly seen with regard to the sense of belonging. Radio presenters help listeners to connect, stay informed, and actively participate in their communities, which helps foster a sense of belonging for those living in the community.

And it’s the way in which people we’ve spoken about the radio keep mentioning the ideas of company, comfort, and community-driven information that really stand out to me. This potential power of the radio to create comfort and company is likely dependent on the strong bonds that listeners develop with certain radio presenters, and the programming to which they regularly listen. It is also linked to the ability to share community-specific information which underpins the ethos of ethnic radio stations like 3ZZZ. This is something that is critical given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — especially in Melbourne, where multiple lockdowns have been in place. So, we’re now working on examining the role of community language radio during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What has become clear during this global pandemic is just how creative people are at using technology to remain close and connected with each other. Amongst all of the shared viral videos and Zoom meetings and catch-ups, let’s not forget about the radio — after all, it’s been transmitting the human voice to provide information and connect people from the very beginning.

 

Amanda Krause is a Lecturer in Psychology at James Cook University, Queensland. She has received seed funding from CAWRI for her research, along with her collaborators John Hajek (University of Melbourne), Anya Lloyd-Smith (University of Melbourne), Greg Wadley (University of Melbourne), Amber Hammill (Auckland University of Technology), Laura Lori (University of Melbourne), Ambrin Hasnain (University of Melbourne), John Gillies, Manager (3ZZZ), Jo Curtin (Executive Officer, Community Broadcasting Foundation).

Photographs courtesy of Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz and Ovinuchi Ejiohuo (Unsplash)