Philippines: Community Radio Makes Its Voice Heard

By Kalinga Seneviratne

BANGA, Philippines, Jul 10, 2001 (IPS) – Robert Rala sells pork at the market early in the morning in this town in the Philippine central province of Aklan, then proceeds to his other job — as business correspondent for a radio station.

”When I come in to the market at six, I go around talking to the vendors to find out the prices of their products. I note them down and then go over to the radio station and give out these prices on air,” says Rala, who is president of the market vendors’ association and broadcasts a 15-minute programme at 7:15 a.m. daily

Rala

Robert Rala, the Business Reporter

”Sometimes I get their (vendors’) comments on the fluctuating prices, especially for vegetables and fruits which change by the day,” he explains.

For his part, senior police officer Crispin Requiola is the station’s crime reporter. Requiola, who has a daily, 15-minute slot on the radio station DYAT-FM, says: ”I always report about the daily activities of the police, based on our 24-hour activity reports.”

Police

Policemen and Crime Reporter Crispin Requiola

He says he reports crimes committed in the neighbourhood and what the police have done about them.

Rala and Requiola are two volunteers for Radio DYMT-FM, which broadcasts from the premises of the Aklan State College of Agriculture (ASCA) and whose existence shows how the Philippines has been an exception to the slow take-off of community radio in Asia.

In this quiet little provincial town surrounded by rice-growing communities, the local university is providing a community-based radio model that is combining community participation with agricultural extension work.

DYMT-FM is part of a network of 25 community-based radio stations set up previously under a project called ‘Tambuli’ (horn). The project’s proponent Louie Tabing, a former programme executive of the Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, had designed it to promote community radio in a country where majority of 80 million people have access to the medium.

Tabing says DYMT-FM is a model of a community-based radio station that would help sustain the impact of the ‘Tambuli’ revolution for years to come, now that the initial funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Danish government has ended.

The station was set up in 1993 as part of the Aklan college’s agricultural extension work. But to become a part of the ‘Tambuli’ network, it had to include a community participatory model of operations.

While the university put up the administration costs of the station, as a ‘Tambuli’ station it had to be managed by a Community Media Council (CMC) that ensures local participation through representation from a variety of sectors of the local community to which it is broadcasting.

Thus, the media council of DYMT-FM includes, in addition to the university’s nominees, representatives from the local church, local government, market vendors, police, health authorities, taxi drivers, farmers, senior citizens, rural women, youth and the business community.

”In 1992 we drew up a plan so that we can disseminate the information we generate from agricultural research here,” explains Professor Ping Bullo, station manager of DYMT-FM.

”But this agriculture technology cannot be disseminated to all the Aklan (island) people because it is impossible to go there one by one. Every family in the Philippines has a radio, so we wanted the radio station to do it,” says Bullo.

Bullo admits that the university-radio proponents originally did not have community participation on their mind, but they did not see a conflict between the broadcasting philosophy of ‘Tambuli’ and the needs of his university.

”Tambuli’s concept is that the community should participate in the ownership and management of the radio station,” he says. ” There’s nothing wrong with that.”

”One of the functions of the college is rural development and we believe that for rural development to be effective, we have to solicit the participation of the people in the realisation of these extension programmes. So it matched with our thrust,” he adds.

The marriage of the university’s need to use radio for educational extension work and the importance of getting the community to participate holds great scope for future expansion of community radio in the Philippines and in Asia in general.

How these two needs co-exist here is interesting. The university funds the radio station by the fact that they have two staff members who double up as broadcasting executives and academics. Only one, the technical officer, is assigned full-time to the radio station. A number of students are also volunteer broadcasters, filling up airtime on the station.

Bullo teaches rural development in addition to his duties as station manager. Salvacion Villasis is an agricultural extension trainer with the university and programming coordinator at the radio station.

”I have to go to the barangay (villages) to train the farmers, as well as talk to students here to encourage them to become volunteers. When they are interested, three of us train them,” explains Villasis. ”This station is basically run without a budget,” she adds.

When volunteers come forward, the station offers them free air time to do whatever programme interests them. They are given three weeks training in basic radio production by the DYAT-FM staff before they go on air.

The local Catholic church also gets air time on the station. Apart from the night-time slots, mass is broadcast live on Sunday mornings via a landline between the church and the radio studio.

”The church use the radio facility to proclaim the good news of God,” says the local parish priest, Monsignor Raul Gonzales. ”The radio helps to give spiritual enrichment, especially to people in the barangay (villages) who cannot make it to church.”

Bullo adds that there is much more the station can do for the community here. They are about to upgrade the power of the transmitter from 20 to 300 watts. But the lack of funds is a handicap when it comes to gathering news, as there is no budget to pay any expense money or allowances to the volunteers.

To overcome this, the station has launched a campaign to raise 1 million pesos (20,000 U.S. dollars) in the next two years. These funds are to be deposited in a bank and interest earned from them to fund the volunteer programme.

Tabing calls the DYAT-FM station a success story because it is trying to make an initiative under the ‘Tambuli’ project sustainable. He muses: ”Looking back, I think we have proven to the Filipino nation that there is something else, another type of media system that can be put up, where programming is done with substance of pluralism than elitism.”

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Author: lotuscommnet

Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who was born and educated in Sri Lanka has spent 20 years in Australia and is currently based in Singapore. He is a journalist, a radio broadcaster, television documentary maker, media analyst and an international communications lecturer. Currently Kalinga teaches Asian regional media systems and journalism and news media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. From 2004 to 2012 he was the Head of the Research division at the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) in Singapore. He has also taught international communications at the University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University (Australia). He has authored and edited many books on media and communications issues. His expertise are in development communication, journalism and feature writing, community radio and alternative media, and international communications. He has won an United Nations Media Peace Award (1987) and the Inaugural Singapore Airlines Educational Award (1992) from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia for services to the Australian community radio sector. He was the Australian and South Pacific correspondent for the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency from 1991-1997 and still writes for them IDN IN-Depth News on a freelance basis. He has done reporting assignments for IPS from a number of countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Kalinga was a member of a research team from 1991-1993 at the University of Technology Sydney looking at ‘Cultural Diversity and Racism in the Media’ in Australia. Kalinga is still a practicing journalists who writes for many publications across Asia and also produce radio and television documentaries.

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