Proposed book title: Converged Radio, Youth and Urbanity in Africa: Emerging trends and perspectives.

Editors: Stanley Tsarwe and Sarah Chiumbu

Proposed publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Even though at some point radio was regarded as the poor ‘cousin’ of the then newer ICTs (Myers 2008) in the 1990s, there is evidence that radio is now being brought back into the media technologies family and is increasingly converging with contemporary digital media technologies such as the mobile telephony and the internet (Willems 2013; Chiumbu 2014; Tsarwe 2018). In Africa, the early 2000s witnessed an almost universal trend towards the market liberalisation of the media, massive internet rollout and increased push towards digitisation. Given Africa’s youth-dominated demographic profile and a rapid urban sprawl that is not only attractive to youth but also enables rapid internet rollout and connectivity, young people are driving the production and consumption of urban radio. At the same time, advertisers continue to search for ways of monetising these dividends.

The convergence of digital media and urban radio are shaping, and are in turn shaped by, youth who are the most significant force behind digital cultures in urban Africa. Arguably, youth are also an attractive constituency targeted by urban commercial radio, internet radio streaming, podcast radio and campus radio. In the context of these developments, the central question is: what has changed since the liberalisation and the increased use of digital media gadgets in the production, distribution and consumption of radio and how, if any, have these developments set new trends in African radio?

The proposed book accepts chapters backed by empirical data and based on African case studies examining contemporary processes and practices arising from the convergence between urban radio and digital media technologies and how young people are part of these developments. Chapters must be underpinned by theoretical debates about the role of radio in African public spheres.

Critical voices of the ‘digital turn’ in mass media – including radio – are of the view that a meaningful critique of the technological affordances to the radio institution must critically engage with the complex questions of the dialectical relationship between technology, structure, and agency especially given the seductive myth of the so-called new media (Moyo 2013). Others are of the view that that to understand how converged radio works and the practices arising thereof; there is a need to situate these practices within a broader corporate logic in which participation is not merely about adding more voices but also feeds into radio stations’ commercial strategies of increasing revenue and accessing personal data of listeners through SMS and social media (Willem 2013: 223). Indeed, there is emerging research interest seeking to understand the realities at the core of the convergence of radio, mobile telephony and the internet, and a book-long project such as this one could provide empirical insights into the processes and practices shaping converged radio in the continent.

Young people are also a target market for developers of wearable devices such as AM/FM headphones and portable radio sets to listen to audio content while ‘on the ‘go’. Modern smartphones come equipped with their own radio apps, which uses the same antenna used by the phone to connect to the mobile network, while Apple Music and Spotify provide a one place shop to manage and listen to music from all over the world. Young people stand on street corners listening to the radio through digital devices such as mobile phone headphones, and these practices may be seen as part and parcel of youth identity formation. Youth also contribute to daytime talk radio, in which commercial radio allows them to send audio voice notes and Whatsapp messages to interactive radio studios. Use of these mobile-phone-based platforms by urban commercial radio ensures that youthful audiences are kept hooked on to radio – and, by implication, are hooked on to advertisers. At the same time, they enjoy the convenience of doing so on the go. The key technical driver of the move to mobile radio is the smartphone, combined with headphones and inbuilt apps, which enable people to listen to audio conveniently.

Another exciting development is the still nascent field of radio podcasting in Africa. Podcasting is the practice of using the internet to make digital audio recordings downloadable to a personal device such as a computer or mobile device for easy listening. The 2019 Reuters Digital News Report[1] showed preliminary evidence that in South Africa and Kenya, around 40 percent of the more educated, urban samples use podcasts. Indeed, podcasts are disproportionately consumed by people under the age of 35. However, these figures are much higher in Europe and North America. We have little knowledge of the everyday practices and experiences of podcasting in Africa. Albeit accessibility challenges, podcasting promises to be a lucrative niche in African radio given the enduring challenges of media diversity on the continent as well as the prospects for increased content options.

The book will consist of chapters arranged under four themes, as outlined below:

Structure, Agency and Power: Production and Reception of converged radio

  • Digital media technologies and audience-producer interactions through voice calls, WhatsApp voice notes and mobile chats etc
  • Digital media technologies and increased audience participation: the complicated relationship between growing audience statistics and the commercial imperatives
  • Digital media technologies and audience power in the co-production of radio content through voice calls, voice notes and mobile chats
  • Digital media technologies and the reception of radio: mobiles phones and the internet
  • Emerging converged newsroom practices during radio production
  • Emerging news sourcing and news production practices
  • Internet radio, live radio streaming and podcasting

Agents of change: Civic engagement and political participation

  • Youth, urban commercial radio and music: the dumbing down of critical dialogues and tabloidisation of the public sphere
  • Underground music, censored music and their emergence in urban street cultures
  • Self-recording, podcasting and resistance music
  • Cultural, political and social resistance: Working class youth and music in urban taxis
  • Online subversive radio and youth voices

Identity, Belonging and Cultural Expressions

  • Radio as self-expression: youth and mobile wearable devices, headphones, AM/FM headphones and portable radio sets
  • Mobile phones and applications, e.g. Apple Music and Spotify
  • Youth, connectivity, urban mobility and urban radio
  • Music radio: Pop, hip hop and urban contemporaries
  • Youth, digital technologies and campus radio
  • Car radio music technologies in transition: Compact Discs (CDs), Bluetooth, and external storage devices such as memory stick
  • Urban street lingo and its appropriation by advertisers on urban commercial radio.
  • Counter-hegemony and formation of urban street cultures

Commercial Imperatives

  • Urban commercial radio and internet live streaming, digital marketing and advertising
  • Radio celebrity cultures and the commercial logic
  • Advertising voice-overs and technological disruption
  • Smaller newsrooms and disk jockey table
  • DJs, turntables, mixers, dancers, and the urban environment

Abstracts should not be more than 300 words

Important Dates

  • Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 June 2021
  • Author notification of acceptance of abstract: 30 June 2020
  • Author first draft chapter submission: September 2021
  • Submission of the first draft to the publisher: January 2022

Prospective chapter contributors to send abstracts to Stanley Tsarwe on and Sarah Chiumbu on

Please note that all submissions will be peer-reviewed. Abstracts to clearly state the aim and objectives of the study as well as the theoretical and methodological approaches to be used in the study.