Clearly it is easier to suppress the public sphere under a totalitarian regime than a democratic one. Indeed the notion of suppressing the public sphere in a democracy seems a contradiction in terms. Critical theorists take the view that the mainstream media in liberal democratic countries, which are meant to provide the space for a public sphere, are controlled by elite corporate interests that are allied with the establishment. Elite-owned mainstream media today incorporate new ICTs with their participatory potential. Alternative media is meant to be an alternative to mainstream media. From this point of view a small environmental broadsheet is an alternative medium even if it uses traditional newspaper publication technology.
There can be multiple elites in societies and these groups may have various and complex relationships with each other, and with state, corporate and media power. The mix of communication technologies available today allows different groups to use different strategies in achieving different ends. It is useful also to examine each example of media in its own social context to determine if it may be viewed as alternative media or not.
This volume consists of two parts, the first focusing on alternative media more generally and the second focusing on alternative radio. The first part begins with an examination by John A. Lent of comic art as an alternative medium, drawing on examples from five continents. Lent distinguishes between mainstream and alternative comics, discussing cartoon publications that have been called variously ‘[u]nderground, dissident, radical, activist, small press, independent, street press, new wave, mini and alternative’. Following this are discussions by Michela Ledwidge of audience modification of films and Sripan Rattikalchalakorn of weblogs. John F. Bourke’s discussion of Australian courts as an alternative medium takes the notion into a forum that is not normally a premise of media and communication. He discusses alternative texts representing events being presented and discussed in a public forum attended by groups of court observers whom he describes as alternative medium users.
The second part, on alternative radio, is led by a discussion of broadcasting audience research in Australia by Michael Meadows, Susan Forde, Jacqui Ewart and Kerrie Foxwell. This is followed by a case study of a particular university public radio station, CU Radio in Thailand, by Joompol Rodcumdee and Suwanna Sombatraksasook. Sripan Rattikalchalakorn and Naren Chitty report on field research conducted under a Macquarie University Research Development Grant on CU Radio, security and crisis management. Weerapong Polnigongit and Passawan Korakotchamas report on case studies of community radio in Thailand, the former focusing on transborder community radio on the Thai-Laos border and the latter on community radio as an alternative education provider.