Week Four: Looking at different interactive radio approaches and tools

Hello everyone,

We are still looking at the learning areas posted from Week 2.

@obolo had this question:

This is what the subject specialists had to say:

-Whenever possible, do a visit to their farms and record their voices (experience and opinions).
-Broadcast on radio asking listeners to write their opinions on paper and send it to you via fellow villagers travelling by bus/vehicle (this applies to areas where there is regular transport between where the letter writers live and the town where your station is) (Susuma Susuma, Radio and Training Officer, Tanzania, Farm Radio International)

You can always ask people to use the old fashioned mail. In Ethiopia, before mobile phone penetration in rural areas was high, the BBC asked listeners to mail in their questions, comments and content ideas for a weekly program about teenage sexual health. Every week they received hundreds of handwritten letters. Everyone received a reply – an autographed postcard with a picture of the producers and presenters and a message of thanks. (David Mowbray, Senior Consultant, Strategic Opportunities, Communications, Training and Standards, Farm Radio International)

Visits and mail are important in this situation. Also, phone outs. Have a community meeting. That is better than a phone-in show! (Doug Ward, Chair, Farm Radio International)

For poor resource areas that do not have access to ICTs, our experts shared the following suggestions:

Do a community visit…if you can’t afford the cost try to get their opinion through post or delivered by bus. Posting here can be a challenge as most rural areas don’t have such service. But people can still be travelling between the rural areas and town. So establish a system where you can collect letters from the bus office. (Susuma Susuma, Radio and Training Officer, Tanzania, Farm Radio International)

You can still use mobile phones to put callers on the air live and with two phones you can still do beep2vote polls. While there is no software to keep track and you have to note missed calls by hand (and eliminate duplicates) you can still gather good feedback from the audience. (David Mowbray, Senior Consultant, Strategic Opportunities, Communications, Training and Standards, Farm Radio International)

Visiting the communities help. Also the host needs to research, research, research. If you can bring up a reference of small comment that relates to a specific community that goes a long way to establishing a connection. (Jill Dempsey/Metro Morning/CBC Radio Toronto)

As part of an interactive radio program you could set up a phone line for listeners to call in and either vote on a topic or be part of a phone-in program to share opinions or ask questions. Unfortunately, this often means that most of the callers who will participate are only men. For a variety of reasons women usually have less access to phones and credits. In order to get a balance of views and questions from both men and women some stations have organized a dedicated line just for women. This way, when they are taking calls for questions or opinions they can alternate from one line to the next. The women’s line should only used by women and so it will require that you filter out the men who try that line. Politely tell them that they need to call the other number to be heard and perhaps even suggest that they encourage the women in their lives to call in and join the conversation. (Sylvie Harrison, Radio Craft Development Team Lead, Farm Radio International)

Remember that the simple cell phone is the fundamental ICT. phone out on one and put the phone to your mic to get the response to air. (Doug Ward, Chair, Farm Radio International)

Even the most basic mobiles can send texts. Encourage listeners to use WhatsApp or any other free texting service to send messages to the station. And then make sure they are read and dealt with on air! (Douglas Rushton, veteran print and broadcast journalist)


Thanks very much. I have been enlightened by this discourse. I salute all the stakeholders for making this platform possible.


Thank you for the discussions

I want to try out the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) tool to enhance interaction with the audience in the programs we produce. This ICT tool is helping us to participate the audience consistently. The voice polls and weekly questions are prompting the audience to actively participate in the programs. We collect the answers and feedback of the audience through IVR and incorporate in the contents of every week’s episode. It maintains the interaction between the broadcasters and the listeners regularly. Of course, we need to update ourselves on the effective utilization of ICT in this regard. We also have to present the instructions clearly for the listeners so as to make them keep motivated to participate. I always give attention to assure the diversity of the voice that are going to be aired. The more the voices are representative, the better the audiences feel heard.

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Dear Mark, indeed it is a challenge controlling anyone that calls in a show. No wonder u may not know what the person is going to say on air! For me I reduced call in programmes especially the Farming ones reason I try as much as possible to have my voices recorded & packaged in a programme. I normally receive calls only in listeners favorite programmes. But I host experts in farming programme & farmers to interact with other farmers/ listeners on given topics. Since we have learned in this e-discussion that one of the ways to make a good interactive programme is by the use of telephone. So I have to use phone as one of the ways. In the past I have been cutting off callers who just call & contribute different things. This is what I meant by deviating. I also tell them on air that they have to stick to the topic being discussed & majority of them comply though for farmers program I have been doing mostly pre- recorded. I am happy that our moderators have sent us reach resources on how to manage callers. Please read with me the resources on this that Busi sent & we get to know more. Cheers.

Thank you Busi & the experts in particular for responding to some of our questions & issues we raised when Busi asked us to ask. Thank you. Am learning quite a lot.

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Sorry experts to ask about using mobile phone & put tjr call on air or on microphone. We have ever tried & it gives undesirable feedback on live on air! Is there anyway it can be improved upon. We fear to use mobile cell phone on air -live

  1. For me to have a very good interactive program, I employ the use of three means in order to get effective response. First of it is the VOX POX, Here I do go to the street and some places to get people’s reaction regarding the trending topic and play then during the course of the program. Secondly, I use social media platform like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp when the program is Live to attend to questions and read out opinions. Thirdly, I normally give out a dedicated line that people do call to share their opinions and queries.

  2. Lack of finance is one of the major factors that hinder people from contributing to the program as they should and this can lead to low response in participation and interaction.

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Busi,thank you.
I salute all the experts for responding to our questions.I keep learning everyday.
Thank you team.

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Thank you very much smawerere. I agree that it is relatively easier to use pre-recorded voices for radio programs because they are easy to control. I asked that question because I see many broadcasters struggling to get callers on track.

Many thanks to you all for the contributions.

Hello everyone,

We are counting down to the end. More reason for you to contribute. Your question or comment will help others.

Here are some of the questions asked:

How can I engage people that do not want to call-in to interact with us on air?

  • You can use other methods that do not require them to call in during the broadcast because sometimes listeners are discouraged to call-in on air as the line tends to be busy most of the time

(a) Voice polls - with voice polls, listeners can get a chance to participate and give feedback on the radio program anytime

  • You can have a number for participation and once a while announce it on the radio
  • Listeners can then call and participate anytime
  • Voice poll can allow them to record their opinions
  • Broadcasters can access the recording later on and include it on the radio program

(b) Call outs - You can call out to listeners who represent the group whose voices you want to be heard, for example: women’s groups

  • Sometimes certain group of listeners are not confident enough to call, it is good to use radio to make them feel at ease. I am talking about the use of promos and jingles. Also having a special phone line for WOMEN to encourage them to participate can come in handy. (Kassim Sheghembe, ICT Team leader, Tanzania, Farm Radio International)

You could give them an option to record their comments or questions rather than going ‘live’ using an answering machine or mobile phone voice mail service. (David Mowbray, Senior Consultant, Strategic Opportunities, Communications, Training and Standards, Farm Radio International)

You can do what we call streeters…so record people in their own environment and use that to heighten a conversation or story. You could create a poll – to get feedback on current farming practices or how to handle current problems. (Jill Dempsey/Metro Morning/CBC Radio Toronto)

  • Invite people to call in to an answering machine with comments and/or questions.
  • Ask people to write in with comments/questions.
  • Hold “town hall” type meetings and record them.
  • Encourage reporters, regular contributors and guests to ask people who can’t make it to meetings or the station some questions, such as: what are your greatest concerns about your working life? Your family’s welfare? Government assistance/impositions? Farming specific questions as well, of course.

None of these are worth doing if they are not well used. That is: anyone who contributes comments and/or questions should be acknowledged on air, and, if possible, their comments broadcast, their concerns addressed by experts or officials, and their situations/stories updated regularly. No one will respond, at least more than once, if their voices are not heard. (Douglas Rushton, veteran print and broadcast journalist)

What are techniques of persuading microphone shy contributors to be interviewed!?

Thanks for the Question, actually most guests are microphone shy when it is their first time on radio or being recorded. To start with if you are going to record a person in the community first prepare him/her before you “scare” them with a recorder or microphone. Create a rapport between you and your guest first, get out the recorder from its case and place it on the table, tell your guest that you want to use this gadget to record your interview/talk before you start recording. This will help the guest be comfortable. If on air guests are microphone shy, before the program starts, take your guest through what you are going to be talking about. Some stations have production studios. You can walk the guest to the production studio and show them what the studio look like and let the guest know that the on air studio is similar and there is nothing to worry about. Once in the on air studio make sure they are comfortably seated. If they are to use headphones make sure you set the headphones and request them to put them or if possible you can help them put the headphones on. Ask your guest if they are seated comfortably and are okay with the headsets on. Then begin the show lightly, creating a rapport and everything will be normal. (Pascal Mweruka, Radio and Training Officer, Uganda, Farm Radio International)

This is a tough one and in fact entire training modules can be devoted to it. A lot is situation dependent and location dependant. Live vs recorded, studio vs location, remote phone vs in person. People are shy for a lot of reasons. Here are some of them:

  • They are afraid of making mistakes or that they will be asked a question to which they don’t know the answer. They may look at the interview as being like an examination.
  • They are afraid their friends will think they are trying to stand out as better than them
  • They are afraid of you, the interviewer, thinking you might have a secret agenda.
  • Your technology – recorder and microphone – may intimidate them.
  • They might honestly believe they have nothing relevant to say…
  • They might think you (the interviewer) have nothing in common with them and they will have difficulty relating to you.

FRI has produced a training module called “The Etiquette of the Interview” 102-09 How to create an effective call-in program.docx (75.7 KB)
that illustrates some techniques for helping to overcome guest fears. (David Mowbray, Senior Consultant, Strategic Opportunities, Communications, Training and Standards, Farm Radio International)

Another technique to help reduce the intimidation factor, is to very slowly and casually introduce the microphone more from the side, rather than straight toward the guest’s face. I have also found a reason (excuse) to need the guest to actually hold the recorder and/or mic, while I fumble for something in my kit bag. That way, they see the gear as just what it is…gear…and it becomes less of an unknown. It also gives them some ownership of the process. (Richard Perry, Media and Communications Officer Coady International Institute)

You need to create a safe place for the subject. It helps to let them know it is just the two of you having a conversation. I always tell them to look at me-nothing else matters. We are just having a conversation and that helps a lot. (Jill Dempsey/Metro Morning/CBC Radio Toronto)

Don’t push right up to a person in a confrontational way. Yes, let them hold the device (mic or recorder with built-in mic) before the interview, but do not let them hold the device during the interview because they will forget and move it away from the right distance from their mouth. (Doug Ward, Chair, Farm Radio International)

Invest some time into introducing a potential interviewee to the microphone. Show it to them, show them how you hold it, explain how it works, what it does, why you need to use it (instead of taking notes). Let them hold it. Do a mock interview. Don’t start an interview until the interviewee is comfortable with the process. (Douglas Rushton, veteran print and broadcast journalist)

Wow. More than I expected.
Thank you so much.

For me to approach our audience we are give them everything it is possible to let them react on my program like phone number, social medias like Facebook, whats app, twitter, youtube, website of institution and dring the live program i,m making sure that all my audience’s question are getting response, from there all persones will like to follow me on live program, and from there because i use freedom fone stsyem, l let them to send they voice and i play onair direct on live program,this will help everyone to like my program. Thank you

Hello everyone,

Today is the last official day for the interactive radio discussions. We have really enjoyed every moment. Your contributions were amazing, I believe we have all learned something new from each other’s shared experiences. You still have the whole of today to contribute once more and we will post a summary of this week’s deliberations later today.

Discussions can still continue even after we officially close. The cafe area will always be open and you can discuss any topic of interest.

Before you take a break, please help us evaluate this discussion by completing this survey. We will also send you the survey link via email. Please be as honest and truthful as you can. Your response will assist us in improving our discussions in the future. By completing the survey, you stand a chance of winning $50 CAD in mobile phone airtime.

Enjoy your day!

Thank you team.I have really enjoyed and learned.

Following on this one

Qn 1: The interactive radio approaches and tools i will be trying out include more use of social media especially Facebook since i hadn’t tried it out for the agriculture show much as i use it for other programming.
I am also considering increased planning and voxpop to reach out and engage more farmers in the radio program.
Am planning to develop a phone number list for farmers and farmer groups to enable me to reach out to a wider audience and improve participation.

Qn 2: Limited access to phones.

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Hello all,

Some of the questions that were asked are as follows:

What ICTs (other than phones) and social media applications can be used in a participatory radio program?

Memory card- upload audio copies of the radio program, ag-tips or any message and deliver to the group of farmers who can listen to by inserting the cards into their radio or phones. (Susuma Susuma, Radio and Training Officer, Tanzania, Farm Radio International)

WhatsApp and Viber can be used for polling, discussion groups, voice messages and calls. You can use these apps for listener messaging too – like reminders of upcoming shows and text promos etc. Internet connection through a mobile phone is required. (David Mowbray, Senior Consultant, Strategic Opportunities, Communications, Training and Standards, Farm Radio International)

We use Twitter and Facebook to give the audience an immediate say but also presence in the conversation. We talk to people about current issues, not just officials. We sometimes hold town halls in specific communities. (Jill Dempsey/Metro Morning/CBC Radio Toronto)

Can ICTs be used to engage a remote community, in the broadcast range of my station, but speaks a different language than other listeners?

Yes you can. If you use an automatic phone survey like VOTO to poll your listeners you can provide a language selector menu so that each caller selects a language they are comfortable with. This is done once and subsequent calls will automatically use the prefered language. (Basemera Phiona ICT Officer, Uganda, Farm Radio International).

Tough one. Other than having an interpreter (not translator) present in studio when trying to do this. (Douglas Rushton, veteran print and broadcast journalist)


Hello again,

There is one last question that was asked and we got our experts to respond

How do I generate money from my program? How do I get program sponsors?

You can allocate 1 to 2 minutes time slot for adverts - invite sponsor or advertisers such as seed companies, agro-dealers, mobile companies, NGOs to promote their service or products at a reasonable cost. You can also make a deal of give and take - I promote your service on radio…you facilitate my field visit in production of radio programs. Though you have to be careful not to lose the objective of the program. (Susuma Susuma, Radio and Training Officer, Tanzania, Farm Radio International)

You can generate money from your program by creating lots of segments that are beneficial to your audience for example business tips these can be bought by bank/financial institutions, Agri tips these can be bought by agric institutions including input dealers, health tips these can be bought by health institutions name it. But all these tips should be simple, well packaged, short. Keep it short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the subject matter. (Pascal Mweruka, Radio and Training Officer, Uganda, Farm Radio International)

Sponsors are hard to hook but easy to get away, so you need to have a good program that is well packaged, fully interactive with good segments that are well researched and engage listeners. Such a program can attract sponsors and is easily sold. But as a broadcaster you need to work closely with the marketing team and inform them what the program is about and together write a good proposal concept that can be shared with would be sponsors. (Pascal Mweruka, Radio and Training Officer, Uganda, Farm Radio International)

Before you start to look for sponsors, take stock of what you can offer them. That means doing some audience research (which we covered in the e course, as I recall). You do that by asking the audience to let you know some key information via texts or email. How many people do you know of actually listen to the program? Gender? Vocation? Information needs? Subjects that interest them?

When possible, try to find some of this out on air; ask interviewees one or two establishing questions before or during the interview. Examples: what do you do? How old are you? Where do you live/work/farm? How’s life treating you?

Consult any government agency you can find that has done even rudimentary demographic research. Number of farms in your listening area, size of farms, particular challenges farmers face, income levels, gender, education levels of farmers and school capacities where they live, family makeup (how many children? Other family members living in the same household?)

Consider the interviews and programs you’ve done already. Which were most interesting to listeners? Which got the most response? What kinds of program requests have you received? What kind of feedback to you get when visiting other locations than where the station is?

Once you have an idea of your listeners, put together a fact sheet. For example: we broadcast to an area of 800 square kilometres where 11,000 people live, 3,000 in our town and six other villages. They mostly farm maize and tree fruits, average farm size is 2 ha., majority are market farmers with about 25% subsistence, 90% of farms can be reached by road, 350 vehicles registered in our listening area, 90% of households have radios, 95% have mobiles, and on and on. Almost any statistic can be used to approach a potential sponsor and tell her/him what kind of audience they can reach by advertising on your station.

Don’t be shy about asking government agencies to sponsor programs. Be creative when considering potential sponsors. Anything that is used by listeners on a regular basis comes from somewhere or is made and sold by someone. Dishes, soap, motor bikes, bicycles, shoes, mobiles, tools…the list can get pretty long (Douglas Rushton, veteran print and broadcast journalist)

Hello everyone,

Wow what a wonderful time we had in these four weeks. It was great learning from each and everyone of you. The discussions were really insightful.

This is to officially close the discussions on interactive radio but remember, the platform is still open for interacting with others. As mentioned earlier on, you can use the Cafe to discuss any issue of concern.

We would like you to assist us in evaluating the discussions. We will shortly send out an email with the survey. Now before that, let us go through this week’s deliberations.

This week we were looking at different approaches and tools people are interested in trying out and what could be the barriers that would limit them in achieving that. We also responded to previously shared learning points on the same topic.

Here are some of the responses we got from you:

Thank you all for being part of the discussions.

Till we meet again!


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