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					Magazine 53: Radio Boom?

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Anchor 1

This is Panos Radio South Asia. You’re listening to our radio magazine,

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Anchor 2

In this edition, we are in Dhaka, Bangladesh where a sudden rise in the operation
of community radio stations is expected after the government, for the first time,
came up with a progressive and pro-radio broadcasting law in March 2008 that
allows ownership of such radio stations to the local community. Bangladesh is
the second country after Nepal, among South Asian countries, to make such a
move. So far, 116 community radio stations are waiting their final go ahead to be
on air. Is that going to make a difference? Shahjahan Siraj reports for Panoscope
from Bangladesh capital, Dhaka.

In: Bridge Begin.mp3

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Link 1

The airwaves in Bangladesh are suddenly buzzing with a lot of activity after the
government recently opened ways for private channels to start up their own
broadcasts. Already, three private F-M stations are on air. Be it entertainment or
information in the form of music, news, weather forecasts, traffic updates or
market prices, the ones that seem to be benefiting the most are obviously the
radio listeners.

Act 1, Vox Pop.mp3

Student Kamrul Hasan.mp3 (M, in Bangla):

I like celebrity interview very much. This is a live broadcast program. The
audience can directly communicate and ask questions and express their opinion.
I mean, this is a facility we never had before. Earlier, if we sent any letter we got
the answer only after one week or more. Now we can directly communicate
through the instant message, even within two minutes. They are using modern
technology excellently…
Driver Shamim.mp3 (M, in Bangla)
There is a channel, 96.1… it is my favorite. I listen most of all popular programs.
They broadcast good songs. The radio is good as I feel relaxed and enjoy it very
much. We generally listen to the radio during our pastime but it is also fun while
Sharmeen.mp3 (F, in Bangla)
My name is Sharmeen. The entertainment program is my favorite, and the
educational programs also I like very much. I listen regularly to Radio Today and
Radio Foorti. News also I listen to sometimes…
Driver Abdul Gias.mp3 (M, in Bangla)
I listen to the radio frequently these days while driving. It is also a medium of
entertainment when sitting with the family at home. I can even listen to the radio
on my cell phone.
Link 2
Though the F-M radio stations are so far only privately owned, the government
finally decided to open doors for communities to own such stations after much
pressure from radio activists. Their version: Community will play their own role in
promoting their development agenda through the radio medium, says, Shameem
Reza, an Assistant Professor at Department of Journalism in Dhaka University.

Act 2, Shameem Reza.mp3 (M, in English)

The programs will be decided by the community, it will be run by the community,
it will be managed by the community. So it is a total community initiative where
participation is the essence and participation is the core element here. So this
means that the people can sit together, decide their development agenda, their
development needs and then they will do their program accordingly. So this
certainly has got the greatest potential and possibility you need to activate
people, to motivate people in development issues, to empower them, to come up
with their own idea that is going to affect them in their day to day life and their
development needs. One of the core issues or the essence of community radio is
participation. So that is the big thing here and the big strength of community
radio. This means that the community will decide what their priority areas are…
So they will decide they want news on crops? News on small business? News on
education? They want a talk show with the development partners or the
government agencies? They want something which really affects that particular
community, not the other communities… To this, approach is actually going to
involve the community first and going to help them speak up first. One of the
important thing of democracies is that people must speak up for themselves and
people must say their resource or their development issues first rather then what
the development planners and policy makers on the top are thinking of. So
community radio, for example, will be able to contribute in this process where
they will be able to meet the policy makers themselves. For example, the local
policy implementers or the government officials, they will be able to invite them
and discuss on talk shows on any kind or form that community decides to air on
community radio. So this is a great way or great platform for interaction between
the government side, government representatives and the community people. In
this regard, I would say, we can also take the experience from Nepal, for
example, which has been a successful case and they also have the poor
community. I am not saying that we should exactly copy the Nepal experience
but we must also take into account how Nepali community is dealing with the
community radio so our community can learn from them.

Link 3

On 12 March 2008, the Community Radio Installation, Broadcast and Operation
Policy was made public and the government also invited applications from
interested parties. The move was also actively supported by the current
Bangladesh Awami League government by mentioning their support even in their
election manifesto before they came into power. Lawmaker Akram Hossen
Chowdhury who is also the advisor to the Bangladesh Community Radio

Act 3, Lawmaker Akram Hossen Chowdhury.mp3 (M, in English)

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasized for the community radio in our
election manifesto, Article 19. And it means that this government actually is
giving so much importance to community radio. You know, community radio is
very important for actually dissemination of Vision 2021, Digital Bangladesh and
“Din Bodolar Sonod”. Community radio also can help in poverty reduction, M-D-
Gs, P-R-S and "Right to Information" which this government has already adopted
in the Parliament. Community radio will help people to materialize their “right to
know” because if people do not know, then government will not be able to
materialize our prime minister’s vision of “Din Bodolar Sonod” without their

Link 4

Out of total 200 applications that turned up to start their own community radio
stations, 116 have been short-listed and are now awaiting clearance from the
interior ministry. But all that did not come so easy, says Bazlur Rahman, C-E-O
of Bangladesh N-G-Os Network for Radio and Communications or B-N-N-R-C
that has been spearheading the radio movement.

Act 4, Bazlur Rahman.mp3 (M, in English)

In our country there are 20 districts basically identically coastal areas. So every
time cyclone, tornado hit us every time in coast areas, all sorts of communication
is disrupted by tornado or cyclone. So we need an alternative communication
system. I think community radio can play very significance role to bridge the
information divide through Dhaka to coastal areas, coastal areas to Dhaka. So,
that why in year 1998, basically, we started community radio movement and
fighting with the government to open up the community radio.

After long, long struggle, Bangladesh government has already prepared
“Community Radio Policy 2008”… Finally, the government through an
advertisement through newspapers regarding community radio received 200
applications from all sorts of different stockholders. And after receiving these
application forms, the government sort listed 116 community radios for police
verification. Now we are waiting, that means… Ministry of Information is waiting
for police verification from the Ministry of Home. We hope by end of next three
months, the government may allow some community radio stations in
Bangladesh for the first time.

Our especially vision is by end of 2015, every Upzila (Sub District) will have a
community radio and, that means, by 2015 we will have 500 community radio in
our country.

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But is the bloating numbers of community radio stations going to make
themselves self sustainable? B-N-N-R-C's Rahman again…

Act 5, Bazlur Rahman.mp3

This type of question is asked frequently, normally from all sorts of corner, some
other donor agencies also. But we are not afraid regarding sustainability. You
know, if any station exercise or develop a strategic plan… that means, business
strategy plan and Community Radio Policy allows local advertisement, local
news, local views and local sponsorship - this is one of the areas… And the other
area is because, you know, community radio basically achieves local
development purposes, so that, in our policy, we have another option that the
government will develop a Community Radio Trust Fund… So, every year, the
government can provide some grant to these community radio stations for their
sustainability. So this is the two ways basically to achieve the sustainable way in
terms of community radio. And side-by-side we are developing Community Radio
Academy for building capacity of the community radio people for their betterment.

Link 6

There is also rising concerns that most of the applications to start up a
community radio have come in from the non-government organizations so far.
Shammeem Reza of Dhaka University also emphasizes on the establishment of
a Trust to reduce that trend.
Act 6, Shameem Reza.mp3

Well, for the primary stage this is fine because at the community level people are
not equipped enough technically to apply for the community radio. I am hoping
that N-G-Os are going to give the authority of managing and operating
community radio to the community and they will be in the technical side or
assistance in various capacities. But I do sincerely hope that in the next
application batch, it will be the community who will really come up with a
proposal, come up with the new ideas and apply for the community radio
stations. One thing we must admit is that we should not expect the community to
come up all of a sudden with their own kinds of technical expertise and no one
knows how to run a radio program and to run a radio station… that is impossible.
Same, I believe, the N-G-Os and the government as well should really think of
some kind of community radio trust. The reason I am recommending for the
community radio trust is that the trust can really help the community with a
financial assistance. Because when you are applying for the community radio,
you have to submit come kind of a deposit for that and sometimes communities
do not have that. So community trust can help them. Community trust can also
help them if the station is really in a struggling to survive in their initial stage
because the law, the policy says it going to be a non-profitable one. By non-profit
one, if you are not in position to make profit, it is really a big question of
sustainability financially so we need to think of this in the future.

Link 7

In a country where majority of its people live in poverty, Bangladesh is also home
to successful and innovative micro finance banking schemes whose chief
designer Muhammad Yunus went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Experts say, a similar innovative strategy could no doubt support a community
radio station in the long run.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of Coast Trust is one such applicant who wants to
open up a community radio to relay information in the coastal areas and help in
disaster management. His next target audience also is the fishermen who risk
their lives during cyclones to earn a living in the Bay of Bengal. This was his

Act 7, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury.mp3 (M, in English)

We have, in the coast, operational sustainable with microfinance income. In the
beginning, the capital investment will be either given from the microfinance
income or from the donor countries or any donor help. The next is the operational
cost… We are ready to give some subsidy from the microfinance income. But, as
you know, that in Thailand, the government has allowed community radio to take
local advertisement. So we can take advertisement from the community,
advertisement related to the marriage ceremony, advertisement related to the
any general public welfare activities we can take it. So I do not think, in long run,
it will be problem to run the community radio.

Link 8

Bangladesh is defiantly heading for a radio boom in the coming months. But it is
going to be far more interesting to see how the upcoming community radio
stations are going to keep on buzzing the airwaves in a cut-throat competition
with the private operators.

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That is all we have from this edition of Panoscope.

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Panoscope is an independent production of Panos Radio South Asia. We are
committed to providing a forum for voices, views and issues which are often
neglected in the mainstream media.

We would love to hear your comments on our programmes. Please visit our
Or mail us at:
Panos Radio South Asia
G.P.O. Box 13651
Kathmandu, Nepal
Or you can call us at 977-1-5521889

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