Radio Norfolk: community and communication on Norfolk Island

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Coyle, R 2006, 'Radio Norfolk: community and communication on Norfolk Island', in H Johnson (ed.), 2nd International Small Island Cultures Conference, Kingston (Norfolk Island), 9-13 February, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, pp. 36-45.

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My interest and research into the radio service on Norfolk Island commenced with a three-month residency in 1999.[1] Both my research and my experiences on the island brought to mind the contradictions and tensions between public and private, as well as between global and local, which seemed significant then and still affect island identities today. These aspects pertain to the radio service on the island insofar as Radio Norfolk is both a highly localised service while at the same time a conduit for broadcasts from elsewhere, some of which represent Norfolk Island back to itself through news coverage of island events.[2]
These issues relate to the terms ‘communication’ and ‘community’ in the title of my paper. Regardless of which theoretical frame of reference is employed, ‘communication’ suggests the fundamental factors of initiator, recipient, mode or vehicle, message and effect. The conduit metaphor of communication seems to inform some functions of the radio service on Norfolk Island, where the medium is used to transmit basic information. However, such information is produced and broadcast in the context of cooperative constructions of meaning,[3] and so the radio service represents a shared arrangement—a common or mutual process—amongst broadcasters and listeners on a small island. Jason Loviglio (2005) discusses “radio’s intimate public” where radio voices move with impunity between, and challenge, constructed realms of public and private. In a local context, the public ‘voice’ adopted by the radio station in terms of its station policies and announcer language style can be loaded with intimate knowledges about island life. This is where the ‘community’ term comes into my discussion, which I will draw upon in relation to the notion of ‘communities of interest’. I will show how Radio Norfolk serves the interests of the island Administration, while also addressing various audience groups and participating in island life. Focusing largely on talk programme elements, my approach attempts to address what Jackie Cook argues is a failing of much radio talk research, that is:
It has too often failed to deal with that talk as ‘text’, specifically situated within complex layers of radio production and listener reception, as well as socially and culturally Coyle (2006:36-45) Radio Norfolk embedded within established discourses. (Cook, 2000:60)
Without taking into account the various ways by which talk broadcasts on Radio Norfolk communicate, the station’s functions and uses within the island community cannot be fully comprehended.