• Community radio broadcasters in Germany and online archiving: Are we there yet?

    As part of the research conducted for the Captcha project, we review the state of online archiving by community radio stations in Germany – by Joost van Beek

    Ongoing Captcha research focuses on identifying examples of good practice in community media archiving, through case studies and in-depth interviews. However, in order to get a more quantitative sense of overall, current practices, we also decided to look at all stations in one country and see what exactly they are publishing and sharing online, and how. Germany presents an instructive case.




    This article tallies and describes the extent to which German community radio stations have engaged with digital sharing, at a time when an ever growing online audience is getting used to being able to find and listen to programs when and where it wants. Live streaming has become ubiquitous, but many fewer stations make a significant part of their individual programs accessible online for people to listen back to and share with others. Podcast feeds are available in some cases, but their user-friendly potential is underutilized.


    Still largely missing is an optimally user-friendly model which more fully uses the opportunities that now exist to publish, share and preserve programs online. Only around one in five stations that belong to the national umbrella organisation of community radio organizations BFR makes it possible to access audio content by topic, program, and/or date – and some of those offer one or the other of these options but not all. Fewer still use topical tags or advanced search options.


    On the bright side, few stations rely on commercial, third-party services to archive their files, especially in comparison with other countries. This may well be thanks to the existence of an online, BFR-run program exchange platform. This website, Freie-Radios.net, suffers from an outdated design and a lacking appeal to casual listeners, but provides an important archiving and exchange tool for especially the smaller German community stations, and the relative thoroughness of its archiving practices constitutes an example of good practice.


    This review raises several strategic dilemmas bedeviling German community radio sites, and presents examples of stations which successfully navigated one or the other. How to expand existing options, such as podcasting, with relatively little effort? How to meet potentially conflicting needs and interests of different audiences, for example for archived information about all past broadcasts versus access to only audio content? How to marry an advanced level of archiving detail and customization with attractive, public- and mobile-friendly design? It does not yet address other dilemmas being explored in ongoing Captcha research through interviews at radio stations across Europe, such as how to involve, motivate and guide volunteer program makers in online archiving.



    Joost van Beek, Center for Media, Data and Society, Central European University



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