Is Sabido a Response to Brecht’s Suggestion to Radio?

In Brecht’s ‘The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication’, the twentieth century German playwright and theatre practitioner suggests radio’s introduction to the world as a substitute for theatre, opera and other forms of entertainment – much like in the way Raymond Williams might conceive – and announces the need for this one-way distribution mechanism to challenge the status quo of the state (whose agenda it seems to serve) into a two-way communication system that would turn listeners into participants and educators. He writes, “The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him”. Brecht goes on to highlight the prime objective in meeting his suggestion: turning audiences from pupils to educators and to ensure that the interest of listeners is met.

I see parallels between the work of Miguel Sabido and Brecht’s demand on radio. During his time as Vice President of Research at Televisa in the late 1970s, Miguel Sabido developed a methodology for creating educational-entertainment dramas. The method, which was employed in Mexico, had major effects, specifically in the areas of family planning. In more recent years, the method has been applied to prevent the spread of HIV in Zimbabwe, and has proven effects in increasing the use of condoms there. Essentially, the method has three phases from conceptualization to production/post production/distribution to evaluation/refinement. For more information on the method, check out our student contribution section in Zotero where I have posted a report from the Population Media Center.

It would seem that Sabido has developed a methodology that answers Brechts suggestion. Where the mass, cookie-cutter radio that dominates our radio waves today (though that may change since Obama passed a new community radio act in 2010, giving more opportunities for LPFM to materialize) upholds this one-way distribution that Brecht speaks of, LPFM and community radio programs worldwide, especially entertainment-educational programming like the radio drama employed in Sabido’s method, strives to turn listeners into educators and change makers. In rural Cambodia where I have conducted a pilot workshop on the Sabido method with 7 community leaders (in the hopes to build LPFM radio to empower their community), we see communities come together, listen as a collective, share ideas and engage in discussions about issues that effect their communities. The topics are of interest to the listeners because the content comes from the community, it is developed by the community (as the programmers survey and decide which topics to cover in their dramas).

In merging my understanding of Brecht and Sabido, I’d like to share a brief overview of my pilot workshop:

-For additional material please have a look at the powerpoint attached to this post

The purpose of this case study was to explore and understand perceptions of community radio drama making with regard to the Sabido method among seven trainees participating in a 27 hour radio drama workshop in Anhchanh Ruong Commune, Kampong Chhnang Province, Kingdom of Cambodia. The end product, resulting from the pilot workshop, was a pilot episode made available to a wider Anhchanh Ruong commune audience by way of a screening event and afterward-discussion on the thematic issue. This study sought to understand perceptions among trainees, determine road blocks and gauge interests in order to better support future training.

A mixed-methods approach to research was used for this case study to identify changes among trainees in perceptions of community radio drama creation and use, logistical barriers and partnering with a government entity.  An inquiry of strategy consisted of a series of Likert-style survey questions distributed before and after the workshop. Results of those questions were later corroborated with the researcher’s comments understood as a participant of the workshop. The method was chosen in order to support its exploratory nature while at the same time, focus on a concern for projected issues, complications or impediments in future work.

Participants of the workshop range from 21 to 45 years in age. All are ethnically Khmer, residents of a rural commune in a remote area of Kampong Chhnang Province. At least two participants are living within an economic land concession area, while others have never registered their land, putting themselves at future risk of land loss. Each participant has been trained to use consumer-based digital audio recorders and digital cameras. One has been trained on basic computer use and an audio editing software program. Their participation of past workshops and willingness to participate in this Sabido Radio Drama training attests to their desire to make positive social change in their community through the use of media.

This research is made with the intention to inform and inspire an audience engaged in social justice work throughout Southeast Asia, interested in using media to give marginalized peoples the power to shape their communities and give access to rights often denied or made complicated by governments, companies or NGOs.  Readers of this research will be better equipped to initiate LPFM radio projects and other creative communications projects that empower marginalized, rural communities facing human rights infringements.

To hear the pilot program that resulted from this workshop click here

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