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Social Involvement Entwines Audience

In Southern Italy, stations focus on local matters to reinforce sense of community

CATANIA, Italy — The growth of private radio in Italy during the 1970s brought about an alternative way to socialize for Italians. Local stations drew people together, regardless of age and social class in a new and enthusiastic way.

At that time this approach allowed communities to share popular and traditional music, discuss important issues and allow listeners to participate in radio programs. Stations also organized events so that the audience could exchange views and ideas face to face.


The Internet and mobile phone era, however, has changed the way people listen to radio and connect with each other. While many of the local stations in the region merged into the larger national networks, a few remained local. Catania-based Radio Zammù is one example.

The university station pinpoints students as well as listeners of various ages, interested in finding out about the latest happenings in the area.

“We target students, which represent the majority of our listeners, but we also target older people too,” said Mariano Campo, Radio Zammù’s director. During the station’s award-winning program “Sotto a chi prof,” (“Who’s Next”) students have the opportunity to meet and converse with their teachers beyond the formal education-based relationship.

Emilia Greco produces her program “Libro dell’amore” (“The
Book of Love”) with Mariano Campo Radio Zammu’s director.

Radio Zammù also features cultural shows such as “Appunti” (“Post-It”) and “L’angolo dello studente” (“Student’s Corner”), where learners get the chance to talk about themselves and issues pertinent to their lives; and “Libro dell’amore” (“The Book of Love”), focusing on love and relationships.

“We pride ourselves on not imposing limitations or paradigms during our programs,” said Emilia Greco, author and host of the program. “Our objective is to create a sense of community and openness, to talk about love through listeners’ experiences and allow people to share concerns.”

Letting people directly and actively participate with station staff, program hosts and other listeners renders a sense of place in the society says Greco. “It also helps promote our station and increase the audience share.” she adds.

So why is this format so successful in Southern Italy? The society here, typical to many other Mediterranean cultures, is still largely based on regional traditions and family values, placing importance on trust and staying positive — particularly during tough times, such as the country’s present economic slowdown.

Another station that partakes in the same civic focus is Radio Etna Espresso. Located in Acireale (a mid-sized town near Catania), it has been in operation for 25 years. In addition to its regular music and news programming, the broadcaster, which targets teens and older, often promotes community events, such as tourism, local handcraft fairs or school activities.

During live broadcasts from these events the station alternates music with that of conversation from participants on hand. While covering a recent event to promote education, entitled “Il giorno della creatività” (“Day of Creativity”), Radio Etna Espresso addressed potential students by encouraging them to enroll in school and handed the mic to young participants who shared their questions and experiences.

Radio Etna Espresso broadcasts from the “Il giorno della creatività” (“Day of Creativity”) event to promote education. From left
to right are Marco Bertani, Giovanni Urso and Stefano Mongioj.

Stefano Mongioj, Radio Etna on-air personality, says that participating in these kinds of gatherings brings advantages to both the audience and the station. “It’s an opportunity to both help local business and for listeners to get to know each other and meet their favorite radio personalities, reinforcing community ties and encouraging positive interaction,” said Mongioj.

In Southern Italy initiatives such as these are proving successful in meeting audience expectations. The “social awareness” approach, promoting local music and cultures, also creates opportunities for stations to increase their audience and economic return.

Both Radio Zammù and Radio Etna Espresso intend to maintain this “social” format in the future, encouraging active participation from their supporters, and emphasizing local traditional values and music, in the endeavor to bring the inhabitants of Southern Italy just a little closer together.

Giuseppe Camonita reports on the industry for Radio World from Catania, Italy.

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