Community Media Narrowcasting In Uganda: An Assessment of Community Audio Towers
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This thesis is about Community Audio Towers (CATs). CATs are small media platforms that use horn speakers hoisted on a long dry pole, an amplifier and a microphone to communicate daily village events. This study shows that individuals depend more on CATs than other available mainstream channels. The thesis interrogates the level of individual (i.e. villager) dependency on CATs in Ugandan rural and semi-urban communities alongside the other three available platforms in Uganda: radio, television and newspapers. There is a gap in existing literature to explain dependencies in small (alternative) media like CATs. Therefore, the study uses the Media System Dependency (MSD) theory (Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur, 1976), a relevant media theory that explains dependencies on a communication platform similar to this case study. However, since CATs are a community media, they are also theorised in this study within the framework of development communication, which helps the study to argue that CATs are small media platforms that provide local information. However, due to the need to investigate dependencies in CATs, the study‘s main research questions are raised using the MSD theory. The study employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. To investigate the level of individual dependency on CATs, a survey was done among 100 respondents from two districts in Uganda (50 respondents from each district). Data was collected in the rural Masaka district and in the semi-urban Mukono district. Additionally, to understand how CATs are sustained, how they attract the community members, and their position in the national communication infrastructure, ten key informant interviews were conducted with various CATs stakeholders like: the State Minister for ICT, technical experts at Uganda Communications Commission, District information and Development officers, local council chairmen and CATs announcers. The study found that the level of individual dependency on CATs is higher than the individual dependency on any other mass communication platform accessed by the sample communities. CATs appear to attract the audience through localising the processes of information gathering, processing and dissemination. These processes are affordable and done by the locals themselves, something that increases attention whenever the community requires a channel to communicate an issue. The challenges include noise, lack of a licence or regulation, and weather variations that disturb sound waves. The thesis concludes by introducing Small Media System Dependency (SMSD) relations to explain dependency relations in small/alternative media platforms.