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  • E.P.

Island airwaves encounters

Part of my research with Sueo Kuwahara on the Amami islands is mapping their communication systems, including community radio and any other form of collective communicative action.

Uken FM is perhaps the best community radio I have come across and it was a delight returning there this week to talk to some of the program hosts. This community radio replaced the BusaiMusen system which was an emergency and disaster announcing tool.

Everyone had a device installed in their houses and at 6.40am and 6.30pm you would receive announcements from the Town Hall. It was very amusing (clearly not at 6.40am) to experience this in Kikaikima while hosted by locals.

The voice from the Town Hall seemed to be part of the household and from talking to our hosts, it seems that this device goes beyond just announcing typhoon news. It acts as the village's clock as it chimes on certain hours in the day to let you know what time it is, it chimes on school holidays to let the children know it's time to come home from playing, it tells you that the sprinklers are on in the sugar cane fields ("please close your car windows so you don't get wet"), it announces health checks, information on legal matters and according to our host, it also announces services for all sorts of problems, including marital ones (perhaps we need to check how true this is!)

Community radio is more inclusive as it allows participation but this busaimusen system, although top-down it has its merits too. And the village loudspeaker system is still alive and well in Amami. You can't ignore the Sunday early morning call, reminding you to come and clean the neighborhood! Multiple communicative layers co-existing in a rich island communicative ecology context.

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