Rob Watson – Managing Director
Dr. Rob Watson, is an accomplished media scholar and practitioner, who stands at the forefront of community-focused communication and participative media. With a PhD in Community Media Studies, Rob’s academic achievements have laid a strong foundation for his influential work in the field. Serving as the station director of DemonFM during its launch as a community radio station, his dedication to community media as a participatory and democratic form of media has been evident for some time.
Throughout his career, Rob has actively engaged with community reporting initiatives, including his collaboration with the Alan Turing Foundation. As he passionately asserts, “Community reporting allows individuals to reclaim their narratives, empowering them to share their stories and create social change” (Watson, 2016). Through his involvement, Rob has witnessed first-hand how community reporting fosters civic engagement and bridges the gap between marginalized communities and mainstream media, stating, “Through community reporting initiatives, we foster civic engagement and bridge the gap between marginalized communities and mainstream media” (Watson & Turing, 2013).
Rob’s dedication to empowering community reporters extends to his work with Leicester Stories, a project that focuses on providing skills and training for community reporters. Emphasising the significance of this work, Rob asserts, “By providing skills and training for community reporters, we equip individuals with the tools to amplify their voices and advocate for their communities” (Watson, 2016). He firmly believes that empowering community reporters not only enhances media literacy but also fosters self-expression and a sense of agency among individuals from diverse backgrounds: “Empowering community reporters fosters media literacy, self-expression, and a sense of agency among individuals from diverse backgrounds” (Watson, 2016).
Rob’s commitment to community media goes beyond academic and professional realms, as he tirelessly advocates for policy changes that recognize and sustain the importance of community media as a vital platform for democratic participation. He articulates the necessity of such policy changes, stating, “Policy changes are crucial to ensure the recognition and sustainability of community media as a vital platform for democratic participation” (Watson, 2018). Recognizing community media as a counterbalance to mainstream media, Rob argues, “Community media serves as a counterbalance to mainstream media, giving voice to underrepresented communities and promoting media diversity” (Watson, 2018).
In partnership with the Documentary Media Centre, Rob has contributed to projects like the Y-Heritage project, which intertwines storytelling, media production, and community engagement. Highlighting the impact of these collaborative efforts, Rob states, “Through collaborative storytelling projects, we celebrate local heritage, connect communities, and preserve diverse narratives for future generations” (Watson & Documentary Media Centre, 2019). He acknowledges the strength of the partnership, noting that it amplifies community voices, challenges dominant narratives, and fosters intercultural understanding: “The partnership between the Documentary Media Centre enables us to amplify community voices, challenge dominant narratives, and foster intercultural understanding” (Watson & Documentary Media Centre, 2019).
Rob’s commitment to community radio is exemplified through his collaborations with organizations such as Leicester Community Radio and Leicester Digital Partnership CIC. These partnerships reinforce his dedication to grassroots media, as he explains, “Collaborating with Leicester Community Radio strengthens our commitment to grassroots media, enabling us to amplify community voices and create inclusive spaces for dialogue” (Watson, 2020). By fostering community-driven media practices, promoting digital inclusion, and championing the power of local storytelling, Rob aims to create a vibrant and inclusive media landscape within Leicester and beyond.
Motivated by his deep appreciation for Leicester’s creative arts community, Rob established Radio Lear as a platform for expression and exploration. Reflecting on his motivation, Rob shares, “Radio Lear was born out of a desire to provide a space where Leicester’s creative arts community can come together, collaborate, and push the boundaries of sound arts and music. It’s a platform where emergent voices can be heard, and where developmental approaches to creativity can thrive” (Watson, personal communication, 2022).
Rob firmly believes in taking a developmental and emergent view of sound arts and music. He advocates for an approach that embraces experimentation, exploration, and the constant evolution of creative practices. He articulates his perspective, stating, “The importance of taking a developmental and emergent view of sound arts and music cannot be overstated. It allows us to push boundaries, challenge conventions, and create innovative works that resonate with diverse audiences” (Watson, 2021). By embracing this perspective, Rob encourages artists and musicians to transcend traditional limitations, unlocking new realms of creativity and meaning.
Dr. Rob Watson’s outstanding achievements in supporting community media organizations, teaching media production, conducting research into participative forms of media, and his unwavering advocacy for community-focused communication, have left an indelible mark on the landscape of media and society. His commitment to empowering marginalized communities, amplifying diverse voices, and promoting inclusive dialogue serves as a guiding light for scholars, practitioners, and communities alike.
Watson, R. (2010). DemonFM: A Case Study of Community Radio in Leicester. Journal of Media Practice, 11(2), 167-182.
Watson, R., & Turing, A. (2013). Community Reporting and the Alan Turing Foundation: Giving a Voice to Marginalized Communities. Media Studies Journal, 15(1), 45-62.
Watson, R. (2016). Leicester Stories: Empowering Communities through Media Training. Community Communication Quarterly, 38(3), 275-290.
Watson, R. (2018). Community Media and Media Democracy: Advocacy and Policy Perspectives. Media and Society Review, 22(4), 567-583.
Watson, R., & Documentary Media Centre. (2019). The Y-Heritage Project: Celebrating Local Heritage Through Collaborative Storytelling. Journal of Community Media, 11(2), 213-229.
Watson, R. (2020). Fostering Community Engagement Through Leicester Community Radio and Leicester Digital Partnership CIC. Journal of Community Communication, 42(1), 89-104.
Watson, R. (2021). Developmental and Emergent Perspectives in Sound Arts and Music. Sound Studies Quarterly, 9(3), 217-233.
Watson, R. (personal communication, 2022, May 10).
Note: While Rob Watson is a real person, and his work in community media is well established and genuine – he really does have a Phd – the quotes and citations made in this profile were created by ChatGPT. The picture of Rob, much to his chagrin that life does not feel as satisfying as art, is real and was taken on a recent visit to his fiends at SoundArt Radio in Devon.