Accepted paper:

Audiences in engagement : call-in radio and the public sphere in modern Benin, West Africa


Tanaka Masataka

Paper short abstract:

The paper considers the function of the public sphere, which promotes peoples’ dialogues, by focusing on the case study of a participatory radio program in Benin. It seems the audience covertly holds a desire to rebel against the authority, hence calling in to accuse politicians of their injustices.

Paper long abstract:

The paper aims to expose a rebellious aspect of the radio listeners in the Republic of Benin. Recently, the number of mobile phone users in Africa has rapidly increased, which has greatly changed the way people communicate; One can now catch the broadcast on a mobile phone, enabling the programs to be more accessible than ever. After the democratic turn in 1990, the new government enforced the de-monopolization of radio frequencies. Several private stations have opened since then, with entertainment and participatory programs, which have enabled people to publicly talk. These have a tendency to broadcast programs, the so-called "talk radios" where they accommodate listeners' complaints of everyday life, much more often than the state-owned stations. Such programs appeal to the audience that since there is a freedom of speech one should express whatever they want to say, and that individual voices will contribute in empowering the development of democracy of Benin.

This examines the reality of the participating listeners and compares respective cases to elucidate the common characteristic of active audiences. It has been acknowledged that the communicative interaction, shaped and extended by the media, is a model of the public sphere. In fact, it is by using their personal mobile phones that people participate in such a public space. The audience who accuses government offices and politicians of their injustices tend to be associated with criticizing and rebelling against authority. The presentation reports on how the public sphere generated by the media instills democracy in Benin.

panel P082
Citizenship, violence, and power: re-invention of modern nation-states in Africa