In Austria, free media have been broadcasting since 1998 and have established themselves as the third broadcasting sector in addition to public and commercial. In a study by COMMIT, Community Media Institute, funded by the RTR-GmbH and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. med. Meike Lauggas and Mag. Helmut Peissl analyse the educational relevance of non-commercial broadcasting in Austria.
The current study investigates educational services and contributions to lifelong learning, which 130 employees and approximately 3,000 volunteers as-well as pupils, students, trainees, interns, and others may acquire in community broadcasting in Austria, both through organized further training or informally. To this end the training programmes offered in 2013 by 11 out of 17 community radio and TV stations were analysed, additional data were collected during 2013-2015 by initiating an online survey of all contributors to those stations, by interviewing 10 experts and by conducting a exploratory workshop and a focus group discussion.
The results were divided into six topics where learning processes are condensed by the means of workshops but also informal training: The use of technology (1) is the immediately identifiable area of acquirable competences which is most frequently exploited and at the same time has a strongly demystifying effect; the microphone becomes an item of particular significance because of its empowering effect with regard to the perception of the self and the other which it produces in presenters (speech and language, 2); significantly higher participation and interaction (3) in/with social and cultural offers as-well as an increase in writing and reading are a direct consequence of such media work, which is in turn related to the major area of establishing contacts (4) with other people in the studio, through further training, for broadcasts, etc., especially also in interaction or confrontation with public figures – thereby drastically expanding social capital and social skills; interactions with the public media (5) benefit from a professionalised approach towards third-party shows as-well as towards those of community broadcasters own productions; courage and spontaneity (6) are particularly often quoted as constituent work elements which permit enjoyable learning experiences. Emerging as especially beneficial (depending on the individual and to a varying extent) are the following conditions: the absence of long commutes or studies permitting a direct and immediate start at the broadcaster and learning-by-doing respectively; personal contacts within the community radio or TV station, the ability to determine independently and based on interests if and what will be studied, as-well as freedom in the creation of broadcasts with regard to content and form.
Competences acquired through community broadcasting comply largely with all eight EU key competences thus demonstrating its potential as educational institution, which has already received acknowledgement through internship placements and apprenticeships and in various cooperations with education providers and the Public Employment Service Austria. International experiences differ with regard to suitable competence certifications since the heterogeneity of producers and contributors causes a broad and partially conflicting initial situation: Whereas portfolios or diplomas imply an increase in self-assertion for some, to others they might act as a deterrence through their association with educational institutions and all their mechanisms (and obligations).
Similarly, the stations are confronted with a rise in bureaucracy, which adds complexity and produces alienation and dependencies. If, however, personal contact, freedom, nonconformism, and an affinity to performance are established as essential prerequisites for the development of self-determined educational interests, which in turn are not first and foremost related to economic utility, then educational attainment in community radio and TV can to a great degree be substantial and sustainable.
Based on the results of this study proposals were developed, which on the one hand are addressed to policy makers and officials within relevant educational and political institutions, and on the other hand, those that are addressed to all participants in community radio and TV.
Mag. Helmut Peissl is a communication expert and media educator. Since its founding in 2010, he has been managing director of the association COMMIT - Community Media Institute. He led several study projects on non-commercial broadcasting in Austria and Europe for the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR).