Radio Diaries Program Production Process

Foundational Creative Concept

The concept of the Radio Diaries emerged from the idea that creating an emotional connection between listeners and HIV-positive diarists can reduce stigma and make society more accepting of people living with HIV. Through the stories told in the Radio Diaries, listeners identify with some of the life experiences discussed on the program, even if they did not have HIV. In this way, listeners feel a personal connection with the HIV-positive diarists, and are less likely to stigmatize or discriminate against people living with HIV that they encounter in their daily lives. 

Producing the Radio Diaries through Collaboration

A number of implementing partners (BRIDGE II, Galaxy Media, Story Workshop Educational Trust, National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi [NAPHAM] and 16 radio stations) worked together to produce and air the Radio Diaries. Galaxy Media, in collaboration with NAPHAM, identified HIV positive individuals who were willing to become Radio Diarists and discuss their day-to-day lives openly. Galaxy Media trained the Radio Diarists alongside radio producers drawn from the various radio stations. This presented an opportunity for the two groups to get to know each other and share experiences and input into the project. Radio Producers received training on interviewing and other technical skills to improve the quality of their recordings (e.g., sound quality and content). The Radio Diarists learned how to creatively tell their stories to elicit a powerful reaction from listeners. After the training, Galaxy Media supported radio stations in interviewing the Radio Diarists and later edited the interviews into five minute inserts, which were sent to Story Workshop to be incorporated into the Chenicheni Nchiti? Reality Radio program (CCN). After production of the program by Story Workshop, Galaxy Media distributed them to 16 radio stations for airing.  BRIDGE II provided technical support throughout this process. 

Creating Compelling Stories

Every week, Radio Diarists focused on one issue or event and highlighted the impact that the event had in their lives.  Over time, Diarists covered a wide range of everyday topics, including relationships with partners, family, friends, and the broader community; medical issues and perceptions of response from health service providers; work and leisure activities; diminished capacity, emotional stress and coming to terms with the realities of HIV. 

Developing a Following and Gaining Exposure

The Radio Diaries program was initially a standalone program but was subsequently incorporated into CCN. This greatly increased the reach of the Radio Diaries, as CCN has many more listeners overall. The project started with low profile Diarists in its early years, but during BRIDGE II, several high profile diarists were engaged to expand awareness that HIV can affect people from all walks of life. One of them was a PhD holder and lecturer at the University of Malawi and another one was a Chief Executive Officer for one of the District Councils. BRIDGE II also engaged a variety of broadcasters from different sectors such as public, commercial, and religious radio to reach more people. The Radio Diaries began airing on eight regional radio stations in 2004 and had expanded to 13 by 2014, and eventually could be heard on 16 radio stations in Malawi within the CCN program. Many of the original radio stations have continued to air the Diaries on their own, without the involvement of the BRIDGE II project, as it has become such a popular program. A baseline survey for the USAID funded SSDI-Communication project, conducted in 2012, showed that over 40% of Malawian adults listened to CCN (and its incorporated Radio Diaries segment) at least once every week.