Radio dramas have been used by radio stations all around the world for years to spread socially conscious messages to the public about topics like child labor, anti-corruption, and health issues. This is in large part due to radio’s ability to connect with a larger audience regardless of academic background. It is impossible to overstate the value of radio drama in the twenty-first century, particularly in nations where the right to free speech is restricted, where technology is expensive to reach, or where the prevalence of illiteracy is high. Radio still plays a significant part in the dissemination of information.
To illustrate this point, radio remains an important source of family planning information for women, according to a baseline survey carried out in 2010 and 2011 in cities like Abuja, Benin, Ibadan, Ilorin, Kaduna, and Zaria by the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) and Measurement, Learning & Evaluation (MLE) Project. More than 57% of women who knew about family planning at the time of the baseline survey heard family planning messages on the radio.
At this point you might be wondering why I am talking about radio so much when you are a podcast or youtube connoisseur. You should know that despite its decline in popularity, radio remains a medium of choice for many Nigerians. For a member of civil society like me, radio is for this reason also a medium of choice when looking to expand an audience or reach a new one.
Reaching a new Audience
Over the years, Paradigm Initiative (PIN) has worked to advocate for digital rights and deepen digital inclusion in Africa. We have been resilient in our core objectives and in ensuring that technology benefits the people rather than further expand existing gaps, inequalities, and discrimination or to deprive citizens of their fundamental human rights.
At the forefront of many of our campaigns have been privacy protection initiatives through mediums such as academies, yearly and periodic research material, policy advocacy, workshops, consultations… You name it!
However, the audiences were largely the same; Academics working on the topics we were working on. Civil society organisations already in this space, Lawyers and Government officials looking to establish or challenge technology policy.
There was, however, a significant gap, in which citizens – the average individuals who are to eventually uphold their rights and arm themselves with the information detailed in the reports we produced – remained unaware of prevailing literature and thus unable to act. We decided to try converting our yearly digital rights and inclusion in Africa report into a short film in 2020 to capture a different audience. And it worked! Then another short film in 2021! Each one is better than the last.
In 2022, in search of an entirely different audience, we launched our journey toward our recently released radio drama series “crime and prejudice”. Through this program we sought to engage a different, more diverse, audience to introduce them to the concept of personal data privacy and rights; that as an individual they have the right to privacy even online, that their personal data should be protected regardless of who is collecting it, and that they have a right to a remedy where this right is violated.
The Conception vs Reality
We knew what we wanted to do: A radio drama! We knew the message and what it was to contain: Privacy rights! So a concept note was drawn, true to the work of a policy advocate. A background, objectives, a timeline, a budget, the number of episodes envisaged the title of each episode. The idea was finally palpable.
The next phase was to take it over to the executors, the scriptwriters, the producers, and actors. Instead of outlining that process in detail, I have outlined some of the challenges and responses that shaped the development of this resource below.
Challenge 1: If you are not already in the entertainment industry or with a foot in the door it can be difficult to find certain vendors. If the vendors you seek are not on the lookout for you and your work. They can be even harder to find.
Solution 1: Have a brilliant communications team! The communications team at Paradigm initiative found some of the best possible options.
Challenge 2: Entertainment vendors are very often not familiar with digital rights. Those who take up the roles to tell stories are used to a certain genre. In Nigeria it could range from Health to a call for unity.
Solution 2: Prepare your vendor for a lot of research (More than usual). We had briefing calls, sent links and documents to the vendors to help improve their understanding while following them closely.
Challenge 3: Tight timelines. Although it is trite to anticipate a lag or challenge that will have your project needing more time, the back and forth was just something we did not see coming. Several sessions of adjusting, doing and redoing might have you way over your anticipated timeline.
Solution 3: Create a large timeframe for implementation and have flexible partners. Thank you Internews!
Challenge 4: The actors might not share your passion. So here I am passionate about data protection, accountability and transparency. The voice actors, on the other hand, might be hearing about this concept for the first time and not share your flair which might translate into the acting. Thankfully the lack of awareness is what the drama is trying to fix!
Challenge 5: Is it too provocative for Radio? For the drama to be a success, and to air at all, it has to pack a punch while remaining conservative enough not to attract sanctions by regulatory agencies such as NBC who have strict guidelines for radio. Or worse still… Is the drama so provocative that the radio stations will refuse to air it outright? For context half the radio stations in Nigeria are government owned.
Solution 5: Review the script and be tactful in your approach. Publish the drama on private stations with more flexible rules when possible.
Challenges encountered aside, we got to the finish line finally, airing about two months behind schedule but doing so on three radio stations in three major cities in Nigeria: Abuja, Lagos, and Port-Harcourt.
We ventured into measuring the impact of the radio drama using focus groups and key informant interviews with those who had listened in.
We aimed to reach the “new audiences” mentioned earlier – those with little to no knowledge about privacy rights or the work that Paradigm initiative does.
Based on our preliminary assessments we were thrilled to see that the series was successful in creating awareness and in sparking conversation around the topic. Some of the reviews we received are highlighted in different categories below.
“Yes, the drama is interesting. And, I would listen to radio drama more because, it’s convenient to listen to at any time. This radio drama can easily grab my attention every now and then’’ KII
“So yeah, I’d really say it’s impactful and the thing of saying a false story and someone else debunking it also goes to show that they know how we would think in those situations. So, I really do think it’s impactful” FGD
“I now know that the government doesn’t have the right to spy on people” KII
“I would consider myself more aware because I see that these service providers who are obligated to us have more to do in ensuring that our data and privacy are protected so as not to put us in harm’s way, as their customers should be their priority and only in criminal cases should there be an exception” KII
“During the End Sars Campaign held by the youth, so many youths around me were called by private Numbers and threatened, they threaten them with private information that could only have been gotten through some of these companies and informed them that they knew where they and their families lived, and could come and arrest them if they continued to push and show stubbornness” KII
“I hear things like this on Twitter but it has never happened to anyone around me or me personally so” FGD
“I think I enjoyed how they received, you know, fire from everybody and there was no winning and they just couldn’t wiggle their way out of it. It it’s kind of, it makes me feel good that even if all you can do is you know speak up about something, it’s going to make some impact” FGD
What was this participant referring to? You will have to listen to all three episodes and see.
From the hiccups and challenges to thinking through new models for engagement, it was an entirely rewarding experience to put this together. So rewarding, in fact, that we are on the way to launching a second series this time in Pidgin English.