Broadcaster how-to guide: How to deal with sensitive issues on air

| March 24, 2019

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As a broadcaster, you likely talk about a wide range of topics on the air. Many of these are not particularly sensitive or controversial. But many are.

It is important to remember that what may seem like a normal, everyday issue for some people may be highly sensitive for others. Often, this sensitivity relates to culture, to religious background, gender, or age. As broadcasters, we need to take into account the sensitivities of our listeners and develop programs that address their needs in a way that makes them feel comfortable and allows them to participate freely in programs.

How can effectively dealing with sensitive issues help me serve my listeners better?

  • It ensures that listeners feel comfortable engaging in discussions about sensitive issues on the air.
  • It helps listeners build the confidence needed to ask questions about topics on which they need more information.
  • It can help listeners expand knowledge, adapt attitudes and behaviours where appropriate, and understand behaviour that is unfamiliar to them.
  • It can encourage listeners to seek advice from community health professionals and other experts.
  • It helps to build a relationship of mutual respect between listeners and broadcasters.

How can effectively dealing with sensitive issues help me produce better programs?

  • It helps to build credibility with a network of professionals working in the health and social development sectors—people who broadcasters can rely on to contribute to programs.
  • It helps establish a loyal base of listeners who are willing to contribute to improving the radio station.
  • It encourages participatory programming where listeners are actively involved.
  • It encourages partnerships with schools, government departments, and local NGO partners, and hence promotes varied and balanced programming that uses a variety of sources to address topics from a range of perspectives.

This Broadcaster how-to guide was produced in the context of a Burkina Faso-based project that aims to contribute to improving the sexual and reproductive health, nutritional status, and well-being of adolescents aged 10 to 19 in Burkina Faso. There are many types of sensitive issues that broadcasters deal with on the radio: social issues, agricultural issues, gender issues, and many others. This document talks mostly, though not exclusively, about the issues that were the focus of the project.