Radio Actius – Creating a Stronger Community Through Media
Year of production: 2023
Radio Actius is a community radio in the region of Poble-Sec in Barcelona, Spain. Its specifics are that it is open to all residents of the neighbourhood who can join in to produce radio programmes focused on topics of interest to the community, and ones of a social and cultural nature. Radio Actius is an inspiration that showcases how media creation skills can empower communities and bring important topics to the awareness of local people. Even though they are important, these topics are not always voiced in the mainstream media.
I met with the representatives of Radio Actius, Miriam Tellado and Julieta Retamoso, after their workshop directed at youth workers, NGO activists and media experts who attended the Media and Information Literacy Study visit. Both women describe in a lively matter how their aim is to enhance knowledge and sense of belonging of the neighbourhood and to increase the active participation of the community, especially among the most vulnerable groups and those at greater risk of social exclusion.
Miriam and Julieta are both producers and hosts of this small community radio station, which was established in 2016. Not having a permanent studio or many people working for it, they continue their bi-weekly podcast thanks to their enthusiasm and sense of mission.
Empowering the neighbourhood
They talk passionately about their radio and its speciality of empowering the local community. The participants of the study visit who listen to their presentation are very impressed by the key values of Radio Actius, which are feminism, respect for diversity and promoting social, solidary, sustainable economy and democracy through open access to the media and media creation. It provokes many questions, such as what if someone came on the radio whose views did not match their mission?
Julieta and Miriam think that they would then discuss this case with the entire editorial staff. “We are not closed to anyone. But we have to discuss why we want to invite these people. Because of what they have to say and whether we want to give a microphone to these people,” describes Julieta.
Miriam finds that what makes them different is that they are not a traditional media channel. “We are trying to bring media closer to people in our neighbourhood. Sometimes you watch TV, and you don’t really feel that connected with most of the stories. So, this is a space where you can feel connected to what is being talked about.” With media representation being one of the most important aspects throughout the study visit, it makes us think once again who we see in the media, why and do we see a wide enough range of people with diverse stories. When we are concerned about a lack of interest in journalism, we have to ask ourselves if we connect with what is shown and whether we are represented on TV, radio and mainstream channels. And if not, why not.
Giving open access to young people
Even though Radio Actius doesn’t define itself as a youthwork focused organisation, the team also invite young people to their studio and willingly give them the microphone, thereby trusting and motivating them to speak up and participate in community life. The most recent such example was when young people starting a youth association for the Poble-Sec region came to their show.
“They came here to explain their projects and it was interesting because they told us what they are doing. We usually always have the adult perspective, but they explained to us their opinion and their problems and what they expect from the neighbourhood. This was a nice experience to listen to the young people from here,” Julieta shares.
In line with their key values, they also invited the local girls’ football team and other similar projects, such as those led by young artists or young people involved in environmental awareness projects.
Addressing important social topics through radio drama
Being a writer myself and having done my thesis on documentary and community theatre, the Radio Actius radio theatre project speaks to me on a deep level. They have twice created a radio drama based on the real stories of people in the Poble-Sec neighbourhood. However, their mission is not only to broadcast nice stories. Their radio dramas always deal not only with the everyday life of the neighbourhood, but also with social problems, which they try to shed light on using this art and media form.
One radio drama is called “Next Stop: Poble-Sec”, and it is a community creation that gives visibility to anonymous experiences that may never appear in the history books but yet show the courage to start a new life in another country and what it means to be part of a new community. Julieta and Miriam explain that local people in the neighbourhood gave their true voices to this piece, and the process was kicked off by collecting and sharing their authentic stories and experiences.
“The best part of it is that the scripts were created after conversations between neighbours who wanted to share their experiences about several topics. And thanks to these honest conversations, our president back then, who is very creative, wrote these scripts,” Miriam describes the creative process between Radio Actius and the local community. But she also adds that it was an opportunity to talk about how the neighbourhood has changed, and about complex or hidden topics such as racism or the eviction of people from their homes.
The other radio drama talks about the history of Poble-Sec, which started from conversations with old people who live in the neighbourhood. Miriam thinks that it was also a nice way to give them faith and a microphone. “It had the main character as a little girl who was aging chapter by chapter, and so through her we could explain how the neighbourhood has changed over the years.”
Miriam explains how Radio Actius is always looking for ways to approach the media. “Maybe people are used to watching traditional television or reading traditional newspapers or traditional radio, and we try to offer a different way of working with or approaching media. We think that maybe this could help people understand that there are many ways to explain things that happen, and our way is different from others.”
There is also one thing that the people of Radio Actius are particularly proud of. Namely, they were awarded the Sants Montjuïc District award for innovation in 2018. They humbly show the prize and behind it there is actually a large and important field of influence created by a group of enthusiastic local people who use the media to make their district more participatory for everyone.