Radio in Transition: The new ‘media law’ and prospects for re-imaging radio as an articulation of nation-status in Laos

Mary Traynor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Since radio was first introduced in Laos in 1939, it has mirrored the country’s tumultuous narrative, exploited by dominant and dissenting groups as a voice of government, subversion and revolution. Lao National Radio has been the official mouthpiece of the nation state since the Lao PDR was established in 1975. Until recently, this articulation of nation-status has remained largely unchallenged from within Laos, since independent ownership of media has been prevented by law. However, Laos’ current programme of modernisation includes a relaxation of some of the legislation surrounding media. A ‘Media Law’, introduced in 2008, has deregulated media ownership, creating tantalising opportunities for minority groups previously excluded from decision-making to use the power of radio as a means of expression. Community radio, with its underlying ethos of democratic, grass roots participation offers just such an opportunity. Thanks to the relaxation of media ownership legislation, Laos now has two community radio stations and an ambitious expansion programme is underway. However, the overall socio-economic and political environment in Laos is paradoxical and creates challenges both to the official voice of Lao National Radio and to community radio’s ability to represent alternative perspectives. It could be argued that Laos is engaged in a Jekyll and Hyde-style internal conflict to embrace globalisation and economic growth, whilst attempting to maintain centralised, patriarchal governance. In some ways, the modernisation of radio is a poignant example of this internal conflict and offers, in microcosm, a glimpse of the contradiction that is typical of modern day Laos.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationN/A
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Jan 1990
Event Association of south East Asian Studies UK - University of Cambridge
Duration: 9 Sept 20119 Sept 2011


Conference Association of south East Asian Studies UK


  • radio
  • laos
  • media


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