Ground-Breaking New Radio Show To Teach Internet
Radio listeners across Ireland will join internet users worldwide next Monday, as they tune in to the first episode of a new series focusing on the social aspects of the internet.
It’s the first time an Irish radio series has been devoted exclusively to the phenomenon of “online social networking”, of which the best known example in recent months has been Bebo. What’s more: all 59 episodes of the show will be in Irish.
The programme is called An Líonra Sóisialta, which translates to The Social Network. It will broadcast a 12 minute episode each day for 12 weeks.
So far, 7 Irish radio stations have confirmed that they will broadcast the show and its producer believes several more will join over the next few weeks as the series gathers steam.
Thanks to the internet, however, the show will be available to anyone who wants to hear it, anywhere in the world. An Líonra Sóisialta will also be a “podcast” – a downloadable MP3 sound file that users can listen to on their PC, or copy to a mobile device to enjoy at their convenience.
The new series is the brainchild of independent producer Conn Ó Muíneacháin from Ennis, County Clare. After a successful career in local radio, he gave up broadcasting for the computer industry. 10 years later, he sees the two fields converging as technology has put the media into the hands of anyone who has access to the internet.
“Anyone can publish. Anyone can speak. Like a letters page, or a phone-in show, the internet gives the public a voice. The difference is that there are no editors or programme controllers.”
To some this sounds like a recipe for anarchy. How is all this self-published material organised? How can the consumer be helped to find information which is useful and interesting to them?
“That’s the most exciting thing about it”, says Conn. “Nobody knows for sure! The tools and rules are being developed as we speak. New services and business models are launched every week. Some fail. Some develop and grow. All of them help us to understand how this new kind of media is supposed to work.”
These kinds of ideas are discussed daily in the “blogosphere” – the global community of self-published websites: weblogs, or simply “blogs”. They are familiar to people who collect the “feeds” from scores of such sites for easy reading in “aggregators”. They are debated in interviews and panel discussions on podcasts.
Conn Ó Muíneacháin wants to bring this discussion to a wider audience. “An Líonra Sóisialta is designed for non-technical people. It’s for people who are interested in media, but not necessarily in technology. It will introduce new ideas gently with short daily episodes over 12 weeks.”
But why do it in Irish? “Irish is why I became interested in citizen media in the first place. People employed in Irish language media do a wonderful job with limited resources. But the choice isn’t there. And what is there may be broadcast at a time, or published in a way, that does not suit someone who would otherwise be interested. But if you look at the web, you see that there is a global community of Irish speakers and
learners who are contributing their own efforts to media in the Irish language.”
As an experiment, last year Conn launched An tImeall, the first podcast in the Irish language. The project has been extremely successful, reaching a global audience. In March, the site was honoured for it’s use of Irish at the inaugural Irish Blog Awards.
In addition to the radio show and podcast, An Líonra Sóisialta will also have a daily feature in the Irish language newspaper Lá. There’s also a website: AnLionra.com. Over the next few weeks the site will grow and develop as it becomes the focus for audience participation.
And participation, Conn says, is the key. “These new forms of media make much less distinction between producer and consumer. An Líonra Sóisialta will encourage audience participation in every way possible: by phone, by text, by mail or by leaving a comment on the website.” The series has been planned to appeal to people with a wide range of abilities in Irish, and in particular, it has been designed to be suitable for use as discussion material for Irish classes at Transition Year level in Irish schools.
Conn will co-present the show with Fiona Ní Chéirín, a native of An Spidéal, Co. Galway, and a recent graduate of the multimedia degree programme at Tipperary Institute.
The series has been provisionally approved for funding under the “Sound and Vision” scheme operated by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.
The 7 radio stations which have confirmed their participation in An Líonra Sóisialta are: Flirt FM in Galway, Raidio na Life in Dublin, Ocean FM (Sligo, North Leitrim, South Donegal), Clare FM, KCLR (Kilkenny and Carlow), Wired FM in Limerick, and Raidio Fáilte, Belfast’s new Irish language station which launched last week.