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Smith College

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change


Radio has been a companion of and crucial partner in democratic social change in Bolivia since its arrival to the country. Many of its inherent characteristics make it an ideal medium for communication of messages made for and by marginalized groups that are otherwise excluded from the production of and access to information. Historically, radio has been implemented in processes of progressive resistance to authority, in response to the oppression of the groups that community radio seeks to represent. This investigation attempts to understand the role of community radio in Bolivian society, with a view towards the democratic participation and representation of the public, historically and today. The context of the institutionalization of the most important social movement of the last 20 years in Bolivia (MAS, decolonization, and the enfranchisement of the huge indigenous population) makes this issue a complicated and multifaceted one. When the figureheads of progress and radical change come into positions of power, should the role of progressive media be to support the progress as it is, or criticize it, and continue to push for more radical change? Using several community radio stations in the city of Cochabamba as case studies, this paper will attempt to demonstrate some of the subtleties of the relationships between the government, community/alternative radios, and the constituents that both attempt to represent. The argument presented hereby concludes that there is evidence of tension between the stated goals of community radios and the attitude of government bodies towards community radios, despite the striking similarities between their theoretical missions. However, there is great potential for collaboration, as the network of state-community radios and the new telecommunications law both can be improved upon to support the continuing democratization of media. The definition of community radio, and indeed of democracy, is a very present theme in the consciousness of the government and radios in Cochabamba. Thus, it will be crucial to define the relationship in the coming years, as MAS tries to marry power and progress in an ever-modernizing nation, increasingly garnering attention for its unique goals and rapid growth.


Communication | Communication Technology and New Media | Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Social Influence and Political Communication


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