3E. Expanding your (multilingual) broadcast skills
Radio is still the dominant mass-medium in Africa with the widest geographical reach and the highest audience numbers compared with other channels. Radio has a role to play in development, and community radio in particular has proven to be a powerful voice for poor people and disenfranchised groups.
For this reason, it is important that research communicators develop their broadcast skills.
Many local and community radio stations have a dearth of good quality content. As the research communicator at your university you can secure valuable, free airtime for your institution by creating audio content and supplying packaged clips to these radio stations. You could put together audio clips based on research outputs; you could summarise policy briefs or interview researchers on their work. All of this can be achieved using basic equipment – a good laptop and a microphone.
You will need some basic skills
Read up on how to write broadcast news stories.
Learn to write a basic radio script.
Practise using a microphone.
Learn how to sit: good posture results in a clear speaking voice.
Relax and speak slowly, so that you come across as natural and authentic.
“Communicating science in multiple languages, especially on radio, is an obligation. It’s also an opportunity to play a role in decolonising science communication. For example, the Timbuktu Manuscripts hold valuable information about the history of astronomy in Africa. Why not – when describing a principle of the science of astronomy – relate it to a familiar story in African indigenous cosmology, in the listeners’ own language? That way you ensure that the receiver of the message better understands the concept. It also impacts the way the astronomy itself is communicated.” Kim Trollip, science communicator at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa
Exploring the multilingual role of regional and community radio
In scholarly publication there is a move to raise the profile of scientific papers written in languages other than English. Research communication requires a similar push to produce content in multiple languages in order to become more inclusive than the field currently is.
Keep in mind when you engage different audiences that you need to tailor your content to their specific needs and values. Providing video and audio content in the mother tongue of your listeners presents a challenge, but also an enormous opportunity. It is well known that people have a better grasp of scientific concepts when described in their own languages. This can be a matter of life and death in a region ravaged by malaria for example, where the public health advice has to be accurate and without room for misinterpretation.
“Africans are frontier beings when their realities are not steeped in dualisms, binaries and dichotomies and when they are not claiming identities as defined by others. Those imposed by the West… when Africans are on a quest to adapt to a Western style zero sum logic, ‘we lose out’.” Professor Francis B Nyamnjoh, anthropologist at the University of Cape Town, South Africa
Is there science beyond English?
Initiatives to increase the quality and visibility of non-English publications might help to break down language barriers in scientific communication. By Rogerio Meneghini, Brazil
Do you have a current list of television and radio journalists and platforms in your region that may be interested in covering science stories? Do you have audio and/or video clips of stories they have recently covered? This will be very useful to researchers and other communicators who may need to engage them in future.
It is useful to include examples of short radio and television interviews as part of your training workshops – ideally featuring researchers at your university (or at least in your country). After viewing or listening to these interviews, discuss whether they worked (or not) and why. What was done well? What could be improved?