When community radio creates space for common man

19Feb 2020
Lusekelo Philemon
The Guardian
When community radio creates space for common man

​​​​​​​IT'S around 10 in the morning and the heat is rising. But that is not a deterrent to Abdul Rashid, who is busy weeding his 3-acre maize farm in Msowero, a village along the Dumila-Kilosa road in Kilosa District, Morogoro Region.

A few meters from where he is there is a small radio and Rashid tuned into one of the community radio stations in the district.

Upon my arrival at the farm, the 47-year-old man abandons his hoe, reduces the volume on the radio to welcome me and our conversation begins,

When asked why he goes to the farm with his radio, his response was: "Radio is everything to me. Apart from entertainment, I get information that has transformed the way of farming. I also get updates related to the weather. I used to harvest 15 bags of maize on this farm in the past, but these days, I can harvest between 50 and 60 bags of maize. This to me is a lot."

“With the training I got from different organizations, I know when it is going to rain and what crops I need to plant at a given period and this radio is one of the key tools I use," he added.

 The city is some distant from the district centre where newspapers are readily available, he noted, saying that with his radio it is easier to get information on what is happening in the country and even worldwide.

“We've various community radio stations around Morogoro Region. Other media needs you to sit down, but with radio things are different," says Rashid, a father of five.

Rashid who is a Form Four school leaver recounts that in the past, it was hard even to get the radio but now there are everywhere and "we were relying on Radio Tanzania Dar as Salaam (RTD) (now TBC) but, now there are plenty of radio stations”.

According to him, radio is the most effective media in promoting agriculture and development in rural areas, particularly as a tool for the delivery of quick information.

Rashid's remarks are in line with the theme of this year’s World Radio Day—“Radio and Diversity”, which is divided into three main sub-themes—advocating for pluralism in radio, including a mix of public, private and community broadcasters; encouraging representation in the newsroom, with teams comprised of diverse society groups and promoting a diversity of editorial content and programme types reflecting the variety of the audiences.

At the national level the ninth World Radio Day was marked in Zanzibar on February 13, bringing on board representatives from the government, civil society and from across the media system, where they discussed a wide range of issues including diversity and its significance in the current media landscape.

The day is important as it raises awareness about the importance of radio and strengthens communication among broadcasters and listeners. The event provides a platform for radio hosts, regulators, politicians, artists, and influencers, who deliberated on the concept of diversity from various perspectives.

Media stakeholders stressed that the objective of the Community Radio is to create ‘space for common man’ like Rashid, who is in the need for well-researched contents to scale up their farming undertakings.

Speaking at the event, Kajubi Mukajanga, Executive Secretary of Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) called on broadcasters to advocate pluralism in their radio programmes by encouraging representation in the newsroom and promoting a diversity of editorial content and programme types.

Commenting on how the traditional media can survive at the time when revenue shrinks, and readers and listeners shift toward free digital content, Kajubi suggested the need for media houses to change their business models that go in line with the current situation.

"Media should deliver better and quality journalist products. Diversifying what we offer to the public that is another way of getting out of revenue trap.”

He also suggests the need for imbibing a culture reading and listening among the Tanzanians, which of recent has been going down.

"In the past the reading culture was high but now the situation is discouraging. In those days, people were interested to read storybooks, which isn't the case nowadays," the MCT boss says.

According to him, media houses should focus on quality and adhere to professionalism when executing their duties if they are to remain in the current competitive market.

Joyce Shebe describes radio as one of the key media platforms that promotes access to information, freedom of expression and gender equality over the airwaves to all people irrespective of their socio-economic development.

"It's a low-cost way to bring information to remote communities and vulnerable people like those who can’t read, those with disabilities, and the poor as it can run on solar or battery energy, and radio programs are also easy and cheap to create.

"Because of these unique qualities, radio programs are an effective tool to help fight extreme poverty – and organisations and innovators have gotten really creative in using it for anything from education to campaigning to community-building," says Shebe, who is the Board Chairperson of Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA).

According to Shebe, women in Tanzania face many challenges when it comes to securing paid work and bear the brunt of hardships resulting from poverty, conflict, and a clan-based culture that promotes strict male hierarchy and authority.

“As it is in other African countries, social norms determine women’s participation in all levels of public life and largely exclude them from formal decision-making and asset ownership."

Citing examples, Shebe says in that in the past women weren't given a chance to broadcast news in the state-run radio. "But, now this is a story of the past, women are now given chances to take part in the media decision making bodies.

Legal Services Facility (LSF) chief executive officer, Lulu Ng'wanakilala said that her organization has been assisting needy people irrespective of their socio-economic background such as women and children with legal aids and "this has been possible through the use of radio, which to me is a key tool in bringing opportunities for people to learn new skills".

"In our programmes we use radio reach as many people as possible."

A Zanzibar-based veteran journalist, Salem Said Salem calls on Tanzanian media to change to better so as to meet people's needs. “It's high time for the media to look for human interesting stories with in-depth analysis of peoples’ challenges rather than event-related stories. The media should give enough space for people to express their views...give voices to the voiceless. This is what will make you relevant in the market.”

He encourages the media to stick to serious issues that affect peoples’ lives such as gender-based violence, an influx of fake and substandard goods in the markets.

On in-house training, Salim suggested media houses come up with in-house training programmes to boost the radio industry in the country. He said in the past, in-house training programmes were part and parcel of the media houses' operations, "but now this remains a story of the past".

Vice-Chancellor of the Open University of Tanzania, Prof Elifas Bisanda urged media practitioners to air programmes, which are relevant to the people's demands.

He suggests the need to look for the ability and competence of someone to deliver journalistic products rather than looking at certificates. He however suggested the need for radio owners--public or private to link their radio in the 'Radio Gardern', a radio casting platform on the web, which allows users to listen and explore various radio broadcasts available worldwide to increase visibility.

“If you look at the world map, there are very few radios in Africa which are on the radio garden as compared to other parts of the world; hence there is a need to work on the area for our radio stations to get popularity and visibility,” he suggests.

"This will also help improving revenues through adverts as advertizing companies look on the radio coverage--meaning the number of listeners."

Apart from recognizing the role of the radio, Mahmoud Thabit Kombo, Zanzibar Minister for Information, Tourism, and Heritage vows that Isles' government will continue adopting various measures aimed at promoting a favorable environment for radio diversity to flourish in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

"As media regulators, we need to promote  a favorable environment  for radio diversity  to flourish  by means of different measures   such as increased licensing of radio operated  by a variety of groups  such as  indigenous or native or minority  people and  measure the progress of broadcasting organizations towards diversity, he said.

It is estimated that the number of radios has continued to increase in Zanzibar from nine in 2010   to 25 to date adding that his office has also continued to receive several applications for community radios.

"Radio is by far the most favored medium for information delivery in Tanzania given its accessibility and cost-effectiveness. It is easy to operate and lies within the capacities of many local communities who are often left out by mainstream media and information channels," Kombo says, adding that  radio can fairly  and equally  represent  all men, women, and children  by creating and broadcasting  targeted programmes  by and  for specific  sectors  of society  while also reflecting  the diversity  of the  population  in mainstream programmes.

The minister, however, called upon radio practitioners to ensure that they adhere to media ethics in order to uphold peace and tranquility in the country.

Tirso  Dos Santos, Unesco head of Office and  Representative in Tanzania  calls on radio  stations to  uphold  diversity  both in  their newsroom and  on the airwaves said   radio stations  should serve  diverse  communities, offering  a wide variety of  programmes , viewpoints, and content  and reflect  the diversity of audiences in their organizations and operations.

Dos Santos says  for  diversity representation, radio can  integrate  people from  diverse  groups  in their  editorial terms, including  women,  youth and minorities  from different  origins, people  with disability, literates, and illiterates and others.

He says: “To manage diversity  radio  stations  can collect  data  and  develop  equal opportunity  charters  to promote diversity  and inclusion  in their workforce.”

He, however, pledgs  Unesco's continued support  to the  government   towards achieving  the Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) in the next ten years to come  by building  knowledge societies  to the grassroots level—increasing access to  information  and amplifying  the   voices  of those  who would otherwise  not be heard

Board chairman of Tanzania Development Information Organization (TADIO) Prosper Kwigize also views radio played an important role in addressing various challenges in the society, noting that in areas where radios have been utilized effectively has helped a lot in reducing poverty, fight crimes, corruption, and increase accountability to civil servants.

The statistics from the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) shows that from 86 licensed radio in 2012, the number almost doubled until 2017.

World Radio Day was first proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, on February 13.

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