Community Radio in Bolivia - The Miners’ Radio Stations

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This book is the first one in English about the famous community radio stations operated in Bolivia by the miners’ trade unions. Since about 1950, there has been a network of more than twenty radios all locally funded and operated. This book focuses on the most heroic period of their existence during the twenty-five years from about 1960 to 1985.

This unique experience of local media is described through the voices of Latin American communication researchers and political activists. The chapters are selected and translated by Alan O’Connor who published the first scholarly article in English on the Bolivian miners’ radios. This book also gives readers an introduction to the methods and concerns of Latin American communication researchers.

This work includes overview written by Bolivian communication researchers who first brought the miners’ radios to the attention of researchers on participatory media. These pioneering articles struggle to fit the unruly miners’ radios into the concepts of debates about global communications. They stress what is unique about the Bolivian experience and the successes, problems and lack of resources of the radio stations.

The book also includes moving testimonies by participants in the radio stations. An historic transcript from a live broadcast shows how the radios connect up during times of political crisis in an attempt to organize resistance to a military coup. With the decline of the Bolivian mining industry since 1985 many of the radio stations no longer exist. The book documents attempts to rescue at least some of the stations and continue their work into the present.


“It is within this cultural and political framework that the dynamic and inspiriting experiences of the independent Bolivian radio stations need to be understood. This book offers us a precious archive of those experiences, highlighting what extraordinary achievements can be made in often harsh and difficult circumstances. It underscores also just how much the global North has to learn from the global South, whether it realizes it or not. It is symptomatic that such an important archive of information for the global movement against injustice and exploitation should be virtually unknown outside Latin American media activist circles and Alan O’Connor’s dedication to getting this story onto the shelves and into a more secure and accessible place in history deserves all our gratitude.” (From the Commendatory Preface) John Downing, Director, Global Media Research Center, Southern Illinois University

“This is a remarkable book, which provides vivid testimony to an important, and neglected, chapter in the only partly written history of the struggles of people across the world to gain just access to the tools of communication. The story of the Bolivian Miners Radio is especially remarkable because of the extreme constraints under which it operated and was maintained for decades. The book mixes recollections, analysis, transcripts of actual broadcasts, and more theoretical pieces, none of them available in English before and some of them published here for the very first time. Together they amount to an important and moving historical document of the sort of which media history has left all too few. The book deserves a wide readership. All scholars and practitioners of media outside mainstream institutions owe Alan O'Connor a debt for bringing this fascinating text together.” - Nick Couldry, Senior Lecturer, London School of Economics and Political Science

“Alan O'Connor's edited text on Bolivian Miners' Radio provides an important set of analyses of a significant but relatively unknown mode of oppositional media. The studies are all original and engaging and together provide a text that should be of interest to international communication researchers, Latin American scholars, and those interested in media and politics. As John Downing notes in his excellent Preface, radio has been relatively neglected by contemporary communication scholars. Yet there is growing interest in alternative media throughout the world and Bolivian Miners' Radio provides an illuminating case study of how workers can develop their own institutions and practices of communication and use technology to advance their struggles. The studies collected describe the history, practice and problems of Bolivian Miners' Radio and provide an excellent resource for those of us interested in communication and politics and the construction of alternative media practices.” - Douglas Kellner, UCLA

“O’Connor tells how the miners’ stations came to be championed within the UNESCO debates of the 1970s as a model for democratic media, yet notes that the stations were an organised workers’ movement rather than experiments in alternative media. Furthermore, although the stations remain a striking early example of self-organised media, the book makes it clear that their levels of access and participation were not high compared with many contemporary models. As with all community media, these stations were a product of a and a place. Their experience is not easily transferable, and I came away feeling that no one example can provide access to the ‘essential character’ of community media everywhere. It is for that reason that I recommend this book to anyone who is teaching or studying community media … it defies generalisation and exposes the challenge of community media studies: understanding how the motivation towards self-expression is tied to social context.” — Media International Australia in Culture & Policy

“This book is particularly timely given the recent election of Evo Morales as Bolivia’s first indigenous president, whose challenges to U.S. policy, transnational interests, and domestic elites have propelled this often-neglected country into the headlines. Although this volume’s consideration of miners’ radio stands as a major contribution to Latin American and media studies in its own right, its in-depth analysis of the earlier era’s social struggles also provides an important historical foundation for understanding the contemporary Bolivian movements that constitute Morales’ social base.” - Rosalind Bresnahan, Collective of Coordinating Editors, Latin American Perspectives, Riverside California

Table of Contents

1. Miners’ Radio of Bolivia: A Historic Experience of Self-Managed Communication (Fernando Lozada and Gridvia Kúncar C.)
2. Bolivian Miners’ Radio: Interview with Jorge Mancilla Romero (Héctor Schmucler and Orlando Encinas)
3. Miners’ Radio 1963-1983 (Lupe Cajías)
4. The Political Role of Miners’ Radio (Alfonso Gumucio Dagron)
5. Radio Nacional in 1985 (Fernando Lozada Saldías)
6. Chronicle of a Miner’s Radio Station: Sumac Orcko in Potosí (Dulfredo Retamoso L.)
7. Radio Mathilde: A Very Short Life (Luisa Limachi)
8. Bolivia: Miners’ Radio is Dying (Raquel Salinas)
Open Conclusions (Alfonso Gumucio Dagron)

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