BiPE's Research Team at the IAMCR conference MADRIR 7-11 July 2019
Venue: School of Communication, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
The BiPE's research team presented papers in the latest edition of the IAMCR International Association for Media and Communication Research Conference, held at the School of Communication Universidad Complutense de Madrid, between the 7th and the 11th July of 2019. Simon Potter (University of Bristol), Vincent Kuitenbrouwer (University of Amsterdam), Rogério Santos (Universidade Católica Portuguesa), Sílvio Santos (Universidade de Coimbra), Ana Isabel Reis (Universidade do Porto), and Nelson Ribeiro (Universidade Católica Portuguesa) discussed both imperial and colonial broadcasting policies and practices across the British, Dutch and the Portuguese colonial empire, from 1930's till the mid 70's, in a panel presented in the History section, dedicated to "Broadcasting under Colonial Rule: Institutions, Policies and Voices", and chaired by Barbie Zelizer (University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication).
In his paper "' Not for export': the BBC Model of Public Broadcasting, Freedom of Expression, and Colonial Broadcasting", Simon Potter addressed the extent to which radio broadcasting in the British empire did not materialise the idea of freedom of expression and democratic voices, but instead the idea of colonial control and restriction over individual listening choice. Not only was imperial broadcasting, up until the mid-'30s, aimed the "the lonely listener in the bush" - the white British expats overseas - but it was also significantly parsimonious in their investment to improve and enlarge the prospective African and Asian listeners across different points of the empire. It was only after 1936 when governmental investment over local communal listening schemes started reaching a larger audience, though the latter was still deprived of their choice of when, how and what to listen to on the radio.
Vincent Kuitenbrower brought insights into how radio amateurs managed to challenge the theoretical and underlining colonial control over broadcasting in the Dutch East Indies in the 1930s. His talk "Radio Broadcasting and Colonial Power in the Dutch East Indies, 1930's", demonstrated that the idea of radio as a tool of empire had actually failed in Indonesia, partly due to the popularity that radio amateurs had among the audience, playing local music and addressing local native culture, hence resulting into a progressive gain of airtime and native listenership.
In their paper "The Portuguese Broadcasting in the former African colonies: the case of São Tomé e Príncipe", Rogério Santos and Sílvio Santos provided a much needed and still untold history of Radio Broadcasting in São Tomé and Principe, during Portuguese colonial rule, based on unpublished documental research, personal archives and interviews with former radio professionals in the archipelago. The researchers stressed four moments of the history of radio in São Tomé and Príncipe, throughout which the local broadcaster held different names, identities and organisational structures. Despite initiating in 1948, as a private radio station, it was not until 1969 when São Tomé and Príncipe radio broadcaster was strategically converted into a public station, serving the Portuguese Imperial mission to the full. The later stage coincided with a shift in the regime's political awareness of the role of radio in producing colonial propaganda, thus justifying a higher investment in broadcasting.
Ana Isabel Reis talked about "The Crioulo and Morna in the Portuguese colonial strategy: the role of radios in Cape Verde". She aimed to analyse the role of the three different radio stations in the archipelago, as a tool of the Portuguese colonial empire, as well as to whether the use of a locally created oral dialect – the crioulo – was appropriated and used by the broadcasting stations as a lusotropical strategy to continuously justify colonisation. While this is an ongoing research and the results discussed are still at a preliminary stage, Ana Isabel Reis highlighted the fact that a certain Cape Verdian elite was in charge of radio broadcasting in the archipelago, allowing for much of the expressions of Cape Verdian culture, namely musical ones, to be played, replayed and recorded without much scrutiny or compliance to metropolitan standards of censorship.
Contrary to the Cape Verdian case, broadcasting in Mozambique was controlled by the Portuguese colonial elite, with Radio Clube of Mozambique (RCM) as its main radio station, reaching not only the Mozambican territory but also a significant part of Southern Africa and other territories in the '50s. Apart from briefly outlining the history of RCM, which came to be one of the most technically powerful radio stations in Africa in the mid of the XX century, in his paper titled "Colonial Broadcasting in Mozambique: a Paternalistic Approach to Local Languages and Culture" Nelson Ribeiro also discussed the station's intimate relationship with the colonial government and ideology. Such an intrinsic alliance with the colonial administration was not only observed in the increase of the number of transmitters during the expansion of the independence movements, but also in the production and dissemination of diverse broadcasting contents. In the late 50's/ early '60s the station started transmitting programmes to the native populations in local languages. This decision did not, however, intend to promote inclusiveness but instead followed both a paternalistic view and an intention to exhibit the civilising mission of the Portuguese.
While reflecting and highlighting significant points and themes raised by the panellists, Barbier Zelizer stressed how important it was to rethink about the often-invisible means of colonial propaganda, such as musical means of expression as well as language, which continue exerting power and oppression in subliminal and innocuous ways. She also challenged the panellists and the audience as to think "what is about the acoustic and the oral that lends itself to colonial rule or other modes of oppression?". Several questions from the audience were also addressed to the panellists leading all to reflect upon the ideological shifting moments in colonial/ de-colonial radio broadcasting practices and its intrinsic modes of resistance; and about the difficulty of conducting radio history without sound archives. The panel came to an end after stressing the diverse histories and practices of broadcasting in different colonial contexts, as well as within the same colonial empire. Such a point is also suggestive of the local and circumstantial processes produced across colonial settings, hence of the often uncontrollable and slippery contexts where both imperial and colonial broadcasting operated.
In a session on Media and (Post)Colonialism: Representations, Soundscapes & Memory, integrated in the History Section of the IAMCR, Catarina Valdigem also presented a few preliminary results of her ongoing research with a paper titled "Indian Soundscapes in colonial Mozambique: historical notes on the circulation and politics of diasporic sounds". Her goal was to contribute to Radio History in Colonial Mozambique by focusing on both the circulation and the listening practices of South Asian/Indian sounds, which populations of South Asian origins engaged with in the late colonial period in Mozambique. Such an approach to South Asian/ Indian soundscapes defines these mostly as South Asian Music and Hindi film music, and it departs from an intermedial understanding that integrates both the immaterial and the material dimension of sound. In colonial Mozambique, South Asian/Indian Soundscapes circulated not only through the airwaves broadcasting from the Indian-Sub Continent and from specific points in Southern and Eastern Africa, but also through the screenings of Hindi/ Pakistani films, as well as, through the reproduction of South Asian Music Vinyl Disc on the Domestic Gramophones. With such an account, Catarina aimed at contributing to the understanding of the complex mosaic of social, cultural and political processes and practices around sound, where both imperial and colonial broadcasting operated particularly in Mozambique.