Dr Linda Austin

Research Topic: Community radio and its potential to empower South Pacific communities for social change

Principal supervisor: Dr Kitty van Vuuran

Associate supervisors: Associate Professor Pradip Thomas and Mr Martin Hadlow

Thesis title: Talanoa radio: exploring the interface of development, culture and community radio in the South Pacific (available here)

Linda Austin researched community radio uses in national development in the Pacific Islands, particularly Kiribati, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. 

Her primary research question was to learn why there is not more community radio in the Pacific islands amid these cultures that seem so naturally predisposed to this adaptive broadcast medium.
Linda found that Pacific community radio lies at the interface of Western-defined development agenda and indigenous cultural sensibilities.
“Powerful donor countries continue to define the Pacific development agenda, frequently to meet their own economic and strategic objectives and often with lingering colonial undertones. The international development community is now defining and funding satellite- and computer-based media as appropriate technologies to drive Pacific development. These simply aren’t appropriate technologies for rural Pacific villages” Linda has stated in her research.

Her research reveales that the point of contention is the relational process through which donor's goals are negotiated and advanced. What is frequently missing in exogenous development projects is the quality of the relationship between the international development community and the island communities. Many international donors establish “community” radio stations to drive their own development agendas; nearly all collapse within a few years. In contrast, faith-based stations, which by definition are embedded within “communities of interest,” achieve greater levels of sustainability within islander-defined development models.

Another research finding is the need to train islanders who are interested in community radio in organisational-management skills, not just media-production skills. Donors fail to do this. Donors will frequently fund media-production workshops leading to the creation of radio content around donor-led development objectives, but no evidence was found that donors are willing to train in organisational and managerial skills. Rural villagers have very limited opportunities to learn how to manage a community radio station.

Prior to commencing her PhD, Linda worked primarily in the newspaper industry as a reporter, editor and photojournalist for about 15 years before shifting into the field of tertiary and community education. She worked at the University of the South Pacific in the areas of educational media, distance education, and youth media. 

For a number of years she worked in university administration (Media Centre director). She also ran her own graphic design and media consultancy business and has both lived and worked in the Pacific Islands since 1991.
After finishing her PhD, Linda has been working as an International Consultant for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). 


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