Radio is one of the most well known media for broadcasting information to a wide audience. It has proven itself time after time as an effective tool for communicating to oral cultures and has made information, stories and dramas accessible in even the remotest of locations.
Radio is a natural medium for reaching oral communicators. It is accessible to everyone within earshot, including non-readers. Radio can send a message into places where it would be difficult for a Christian messenger to go. It can make maximum use of familiar oral communication elements: music, story, singing and chanting, and poetry. The warmth and personal appeal of a human voice gives radio an important role in oral strategies.
Radio transmits a wide variety of Christian programming. At its best, it uses programming created for a specific audience rather than translating foreign programs created for a different culture. Radio ministries are increasingly distinguishing literate forms of preaching and teaching from truly oral programming. Shifting toward oral-style programming can strengthen radio’s impact on oral cultures.
Radio dramas are recognized within the public health community as effective means of bringing about changes in entrenched cultural practices. In most places radio is available, potentially reaching a large slice of the population. People can listen while they do their work. Radio dramas are relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute. They tap the power of stories. Within the drama it is possible to raise sensitive issues that listeners might not discuss openly otherwise. Characters in the drama can voice opinions or make statements that might create objections if they were said outright in direct teaching. But including that information in a fictional story reduces the likelihood that people will tune it out or immediately reject it. Listeners can safely talk about what the characters in the drama said or did, exploring the merits of different ways of living.
A BBC reporter’s account
of working on a program for a radio drama has many lessons for those who want to use radio effectively in predominantly oral cultures. J. O. Terry has written helpful instructions for those who want to prepare Bible stories for use on radio. The medium of radio has its own unique characteristics that affect how the story is introduced, what style of storytelling is used, and what follows the story. There are other important considerations as well.