Radio on the internet: opportunities for new public spheres?

McEwan, Rufus William
Mollgaard, Matt
Hoar, Peter
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis investigates the potential for radio on the Internet to enhance processes of communication and media practice in the form of new a public sphere. Drawing on the work of Marshall McLuhan, the early stages of this thesis present an enquiry into the unique positive qualities of both radio and the Internet. The argument that follows contends that radio presented on the Internet can draw from the perceived technological benefits of each individual medium, combining as a potential site for public spheres. Both Habermas’s liberal public sphere and contemporary critiques of the concept are examined to define a range of principles that could be tested against relevant examples. The increasing commercialisation of the Internet is presented as a challenge to the normative ideals of a public sphere and counter-balances the optimism of a technologically determinist approach. A series of thematic codes are developed from the relevant theory and combined with qualitative interviews. This forms the framework for a thematic analysis of three individual case studies: Unwelcome Guests, an anti-corporate radio programme, SW Radio Africa, “the independent voice of Zimbabwe,” and NH Making Waves, the radio arm of a community peace activist group. The study investigates opportunities for these three individual case studies to act as public spheres, by examining the interplay that occurs between both Internet and radio practices. As the thematic analysis will demonstrate, placing radio content on the Internet presents new opportunities to diversify content and audiences through collaborative production and improved distribution. Recommendations for further research emphasise the need to pursue the Internet’s role in the public sphere potential of radio.

Digital radio , Political economy of the internet , Public sphere , New media , Thematic analysis , Qualitative
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