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2 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Community Radios

By Bipul K Debnath
Community Radios

‘Apnar Daktar’ is a popular programme on Radio Nalta in Satkhira district of Bangladesh.

“While I was conducting ‘Apnar Daktar’ (your doctor) with a guest physician, I received a phone call from the mother of an eight-year-old physically-challenged child. She said she was very worried about her son’s future as her family always maligned the boy and never allowed him to leave home. After listening to the advice of our expert, the poor mother became inspired and took her son to the hospital. Now, the boy’s condition is improving,” said Sabiha Islam, sharing her experience as a volunteer radio jockey (RJ) of the community radio, which is run by Nalta Community Hospital in Kaliganj upazila of the coastal district.

“Of course, working with the community radio is a great experience for me. I feel honoured when my listeners get some help through my programme. I present the live phone-in programme Saturday to Monday, from at 3.15 pm to 3.45pm,” said the 26-year-old, who has completed her Masters’ degree from Satkhira Government College.

Muzibur Rahman, from Nowapara village under Assasuni upazila of the district, has been a regular listener of Radio Nalta since it went on air in July 2011. “Basically, I like their news programmes. Besides that, I get a lot of information from their agriculture and health programmes. Today, I called their live programme ‘Apnar Daktar’ about cold-related diseases and got satisfactory answers from them,” Rahman, aged 57, told this correspondent over mobile phone on January 24.

Community radios are the voice of the local people. They are playing a vital role in providing entertainment, news, education, weather forecasts, daily market prices, information on topics like agriculture, health, sanitation and climate change, as well as building awareness on important social issues, like child and women’s rights. They also broadcast government and non-government information services, and the activities of local government and other sectors. As a result, the popularity of community radios, which often conduct programmes in local dialects, is increasing day by day.

According to Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC), there are 17 community radio stations licensed by the Information Ministry in our country. The stations are Radio Mukti (Bogra), Radio Sagar Giri (Sitakunda, Chittagong), Radio Pollikontho (Moulvibazar), Radio Chilmari (Kurigram), Radio Padma (Rajshahi), Radio Naf (Cox’s Bazar), Radio Mahananda (Chapainawabganj), Radio Nalta (Satkhira), Borendro Radio (Naogaon), Radio Bikrampur (Munshiganj), Radio Jhenuk (Jhenaidah), Radio Lokobetar (Barguna), Radio Sundarban (Khulna), Radio Meghna (Bhola), Radio Sagar Dwip (Hatiya, Noakhali) and Radio Sarabela (Gaibandha) and Krishi Radio (Barguna).

“There are currently 17 community radio stations on air in the country, with the aim to ensure empowerment and right to information of rural communities. They are broadcasting more than 135 hours of programmes every day on public information, education, entertainment and development activities. The programme are supportive of the activities reflected in the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action plan, and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Around 1,000 youths, including women, are working with the stations throughout the country as rural broadcasters,” said Tamanna Rahman, coordinator of BNNRC.

The community radios have already gained wide popularity among local communities. The stations presently reach more than 6.1 million listeners. The Ministry of Information has approved 15 more community radios, which are likely to go on air by the end of this year, Rahman added.

Ahead of World Radio Day on February 13, The Weekend Independent recently talked to some community radios regarding their activities and influence on social development.

Radio Nalta

“Radio Nalta produces programmes to disseminate information on agriculture, health education, climate change, natural calamities to the community. It also provides various information on local issues and socio-economic development activities through courtyard meetings in remote areas,” Selim Sharier, station manager of Radio Nalta, based at Nalta village in Kaliganj upazila of Satkhira district, said about how they help the community.

“The total number of our listeners is about 600,000 including youths, students, farmers, fishermen and working-class people. We need more staff, financial assistance, and technical equipment to spread our service. It is good that we have some young talents who are eagerly working with us as volunteers,” Sharier added.

Regarding its success, the station manager said Radio Nalta has many achievements to date.  “The informative programmes of our station are contributing towards increasing social awareness, including minimising losses through advance weather forecasts, reducing drop-out rates of children from school through educational programmes and preventing child marriages through development programmes for women and children,” Sharier said. “Radio Nalta got ‘best female reporter’ award from PLAN International Bangladesh,” he added.  

Radio Lokobetar

“The radio started its journey in Barguna’s coastal area in 2011. Electricity remains unavailable in the stormy southern parts of the coastal district most of the time. As a result, people cannot watch television regularly. Even daily newspapers are late in reaching the remote areas. That is why the radio becomes the only medium of entertainment and source of information for local people,” said Monir Hossain, station manager of the radio which is based in west Barguna.

“The broadcasting time of the community radio is from 3pm to 9pm and the programmes can be heard easily from all upazilas (sub-districts) of Barguna, Patuakhali Jhalakathi, Pirojpur and Bagerhat districts. More than five million listeners tune in to our programmes every day. Besides, more than 1,000 listeners directly join our programmes through SMS (text messages) and over telephone every week,” Hossain said. “We have 80 listeners’ clubs and they have 11 members each.”

“The programme ‘Mogo Barguna (our Barguna), which airs from 3pm to 3:30pm, is gaining popularity now. Other popular live programmes are ‘Hello Barguna’, ‘Dokhina Hawa’ and ‘Roshalo Adda’. Our listeners can take part through telephone or SMS (short message service). We broadcast local news of Barguna district, such as weather forecast, special bulletins on natural disasters, our tradition and culture, songs and various programmes in local dialects, which does not happen in national newspapers or the electronic media,” he added. “We have qualified staff and 307 volunteers. With their help, we can make quality programmes in a short time. We also have a standard studio.”

“Through the A2i (access to information) project of the Prime Minister’s Office, a community radio website, communityradio.com.bd, was designed on May 27, 2014,” Hossain said about the radio’s online service.

Radio Sagar Giri

“Radio Sagar Giri is characterised by the active participation of the community in the process of producing news, information, entertainment and culturally relevant programmes, with emphasis on local issues and concerns. It is a non-profit enterprise, and with training and skill development, local producers can make programmes in the local language. The community can also actively participate in the management of the station and have a say in programme scheduling and content,” Sha Sultan Shamim, station manager of Radio Sagar Giri, based in Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong.

“A community radio, Sagor Giri is a radio for all members of the community. Everyone is invited to participate, give their opinions, and share their interests on the radio. However, disadvantaged groups, like the ethnic minorities, women, farmers, the fishing community, persons with disabilities and young people in the Sitakunda area are the main target of the community radio,” said Shamim. “We have about 400,000 listeners in our community.”

“Radio Sagar Giri, run by the YPSA (Young Power in Social Action), provides livelihood related information to the rural communities in an easy-to-understand way. Through our programmes, our listeners become aware of child marriage, dowry, family planning, adolescent health, fishing, human rights, etc,” he added.

Borendro Radio

“Borendro Radio is also broadcasting various programmes aimed at ensuring the rights of deprived communities, like Santal and Pahan ethnic groups, marginal farmers, and Dalits (low caste Hindus) of Naogaon district. The community radio is airing various types of programmes on poverty reduction and economic development, education, social rights, and preservation of local heritage and culture, as well as creating public awareness on health, water and sanitation, and women’s development,” said Subroto Sarker, station manager of Borendro Radio.

“We encourage farmers to increase their efficiency, use new technologies and seeds for cultivation, and be aware of climate change and market prices so they can get fair value for their crops. The radio has already grabbed the attention of local listeners,” Sarker added.

The station, an initiative of Human Rights Development Association, a local non-government development organisation, started broadcasting on March 8, 2012, and it now airs programmes between 9.30am and 10pm.

“The organisation is working for the development of people at grassroots level, especially women, and for protecting the rights of local people in Naogaon district,” the station manager added.

Radio Chilmari

“Radio Chilmari started broadcasting in 2012 and our coverage areas include Kurigram, Gaibandha and Rangpur districts. We have about 500,000 listeners. We are on air daily from 3 pm to 8 pm. We are providing development information to the local communities through 22 different programmes every week. We have 108 listeners’ clubs at present. Each club has 35 members and they take part in social development activities regularly,” said Boshir Ahmed, station in-charge of Radio Chilmari, based on the Chilmari campus of RDRS, a national development organisation.

 “As a result of broadcasting various social awareness programmes, positive changes among the local communities are widely visible. The number of child marriages has been remarkably reduced in our area. Awareness about population control, maternity health and newborn baby care has also increased. The capability of facing natural calamities has improved. Local treatment based on superstition is hardly seen now. The socio-economic condition of the people has improved,” Ahmed said about the radio’s activities.

Ahmad Ali, of Mistripara village in Kurigram, is a regular listener of Radio Chilmari. “As a teacher, I sometime take part in development programmes on Radio Chilmari. Community radios are becoming an active ground for organising dialogues at the grassroots level in our country. These dialogues are helping the rural people to find their own voices and ensure leverage for their free opinions on social, economic, political, cultural and environmental issues,” Ali, 45, told this correspondent over the phone. “Though we, the community people, are the key stakeholders of these types of radio stations, the quality of their programmes must be improved,” he added.

About the radio’s recognition, station in-charge Ahmed said: “We received family planning award from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, community radio right to information award from the BNNRC, and community award from Bangladesh Community Radio Association.”

Photos: Courtesy

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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