SINCE time immemorial, the universe has been exposed to broadcasting of messages and information dissemination as an essential tool of mass communication as compared to narrowcasting. In fact, the world has been accustomed to broadcasting as the only mode of engaging audiences through radio, newspapers, television and film. Broadcasting has been a trusted information network that gets things done in politics, economics, development but its global influence is gradually being deminished by narrowcasting due to its power of audience appeal, persuasion and engagement.

It is its persuasive nature which separates narrowcasting from broadcasting, especially in climate change mitigation and adaptation where segmentation, small group communication, targeting and positioning are audience focused rather than product focused. While broadcasting appeals to mass audiences and wide coverage, narrowcasting appeals to small audiences, those often marginalised, discredited, ignored and controversial voices. This kind of engagement would transform and build into whole, networks and movements with positive footprints in community development and relevant climate action for building resilience.

While narrowcasting is viewed as having a narrow appeal, practically it offers broad appeal in terms of conversion and persuasive rate. Although climate change issues have been broadcast widely, anticipating mass global appeal, it is narrowcasting that is people-centred and sufficiently engaging. Comparatively, due to recent technological changes in the media landscape, broadcasting’s perceived influence and wide appeal has been gradually reduced leading to demassification of communication.

Narrowcasting in climate change helps in building resilience through producing and distributing own user generated content, with the power to build small audiences into large audiences gradually. In terms of the power of engagement and appeal, the trend of moving from broadcasting towards narrowcasting, resonates well with desired climate action strategies that contribute to changing lives and transforming situations. This becomes fundamental in segmentation, power to engage and strategically situate audiences at the heart of sustainable development.

Narrowcasting is proving to have positive outreach impacts, in socio-political and cultural dimensions to climate change adaptation and mitigation. This is essential as narrowcasting has the power to utilise a variety of media components and genres through climate advocacy, networking and sensitisation. Also, the emergence of new media technologies has done a lot in diverting audience’s attention from the usual and dependable international media outlets — newspapers, television, radio broadcasting and international elite magazines such as Time, Newsweek, New Africa, among others.

Narrowcasting has enhanced climate change to be viewed in localised situations and terms. This increases consumer and audience control over media exposure while reducing the size of the available mainstream media leading to improved publicity for commoners, indigenous and marginalised communities. One such appeal is the use of community radios in engaging communities at local level while communicating local climate change programmes through socio-cultural lenses and worldview.

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In this regard, “thinking narrowcast” maybe the right tonic and missing tool in promoting digital media with the power to unmask structural inequalities historicised, as part of new media ecologies. Digital communication plays a key role in integrating the concept of climate change to the vulnerable communities and helps them with the collective analysis of new challenges they face in their lives. These digital communication techniques are based on the socio-cultural contexts of the communities and they must mobilise and empower them to fight the unpredictable and unforeseen challenges posed by climate change.

The advantage of narrowcasting is that, messages are audience generated and perceived thereby becoming more credible and influential. Narrowcasting does not specialise in sharing with loosely



defined crowds as broadcasting does but well-defined and culture-specific groups. While broadcasting is self-focused and serving, narrowcasting directs focus on other oriented motives by appealing to non-broadcast media, such as audios, storytelling, videos, environmental games, branded regalia, posters, brochures, fliers, banners, compact discs, dances, drama, music/local songs, oral literature, among others. All these put audiences at the centre of climate change engagements necessary for broad appeal and resilience building strategies. These are some of the tools for conversation that go beyond speech.

Concerned stakeholders may also want to know how narrow is narrowcasting? The narrowness is in the power to appeal, persuasion, reaching out and segmenting the marginalised for deliverables, measurable outcomes and the power to change mindsets.  The other narrowcasting power of appeal rests in language as it promotes national identity. In this regard, the very existence of the nation is inconceivable without its own language. Indeed, yes, language is key and instrumental in resilience building through communicating effective climate messages that sufficiently resonate with local communities’ lived experiences.

In ethnic composition and minority languages, as foregrounded by narrowcasting, it is in these vernaculars where climate illiteracy and poverty are represented and communicated. Language and culture are used to communicate traditional ecological knowledge, hence they are at the centre of indigenous knowledge systems, essential in resilience building using the local power of science and knowledge as ways of life.

In this view, it is in narrowcasting where ideologies of choice not imposition are fostered to liberate the concerned societies. These emanate from deeply engrossed intrinsic values with a strong resonance and relationship with the local environment and natural ecosystems. It is also difficult to separate the marginalised and minority groups from their languages which is critical for self-identification, values and worldviews. Narrowcasting is not smooth sailing in the background of mainstream media onslaught used by the elite, main polluters, climate sinners and green washers to confuse everybody and manipulate their perspectives.

Broadcasting has been identified as having many stringent copyright instruments while narrowcasting climate news through driven new media technologies have less or no stringent rules. This does not mean that narrowcasting is not governed by rules and regulations. These are laws to be observed but are not stringent and suffocating to climate audiences and stakeholders.

  • Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: