Bridget Backhaus

Listening to the listeners: engaging community radio audiences for participation and development

Bridget Backhaus

Bridget is a doctoral researcher at the Institute for Media and Creative Industries. A former broadcast journalist, she is interested in how community radio stations engage with their audiences.

Originally from Australia, Bridget holds a Masters in Creative Industries from QUT in Brisbane and commenced her PhD at RMIT in Melbourne before transferring to Loughborough University London. Prior to hanging up her headphones to pursue academia, Bridget worked in community radio as a journalist and producer. She produced a number of programmes including an award-winning interview show and a nationally-syndicated news and current affairs bulletin. Needless to say, Bridget’s experience within the sector was varied and colourful, and gave her a passion for community radio and what it can do for its audiences.

PhD research description

Bridget’s research explores the role of listening within community radio stations, specifically, how community radio stations ‘listen’ to their listeners and how these interactions shape broadcast content and station activities. 
Community radio is widely lauded for providing a ‘voice to the voiceless’. This is particularly true of the rhetoric within development literature. What good though is a voice if no-one is listening? Listening, in this context, extends beyond the physical and behavioural act of receiving and interpreting messages. Listening is a dialogic exchange in which participants both speak and listen simultaneously. Community radio should represent a convergence of both voice and listening, in that audiences should have the opportunity to have a voice and, more importantly, to have that voice heard.
Bridget’s research explores the intersections of participation and development within community radio stations, and the role of listening in such contexts. Investigating this has the potential to reveal insight into the value and effectiveness of community radio in representing their audiences and serving their needs. A better understanding of the relationships between community radio stations and their listeners will not only address a significant knowledge gap, but could also have practical implications for development purposes. A community radio station that is found to actively listen to and represent its audience is a powerful, multi-faceted tool: one that can directly contribute to empowering a community to take control of their own development.

PhD supervisors

Bridget's PhD is supervisied within the Institute for Media and Creative Industries by Professor Jo Tacchi and Dr Rohit Dasgupta

Interests and activities

Outside of radio and research, Bridget is a keen traveller who loves to explore new places, eat new foods, and practice her average language skills on unsuspecting locals. When at home, she enjoys reading, jogging, wakeboarding, and drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee.