SARAWAK has achieved another first. This time it is Radio Bario, Malaysia’s first community radio station.
The new station began its life on the airwaves on Thursday. It has a limited radius of between 20km and 30km from the station, enough to serve the scattered longhouses and farms.
What’s so exciting about this station is that it is run by the Kelabit community for the Kelabit community.
That means the news, interviews, stories and music will be directly related to the community. And they get to present the programmes in the Kelabit language!
Another great thing too is that the Bario folk get to collect their own local news for broadcast as well as go on air themselves to reach out to the whole community. For an interactive component, listeners also get to participate in phone-ins.
As we all know, a lot of mainstream radio is centred around Malaya. Sarawakians often hear traffic reports of massive jams on some highway that many of us have never had the opportunity to travel on.
While those of us in the major cities and towns are well served by RTM and CATS FM, those in smaller communities like Bario rarely get to hear about themselves.
Radio Bario changes all this because now the community will be able to learn about what affects them directly.
This would prevent misinformation, which is easily spread by those who do not actually care about the community but simply want to misuse the people for their own selfish gains. Those who do not care about bringing true development and transformation to the people, but would rather spread their poison and politics of hatred.
To learn more about Radio Bario, go to http://www.ebario.org/bario-radio.html.
The report from the Borneo Post:
New Radio Bario hits the airwaves at 94.5 MHz FM
BARIO: The Kelabit community of Bario became better connected on Thursday when their brand new radio station hit the airwaves. Radio Bario is Malaysia’s first community-run radio station, and the Kelabit community never had their own broadcast media, until now.
Representing a milestone in Malaysia’s broadcasting and media development, Radio Bario is a project by eBario Sdn Bhd, the organisation which operates the eBario telecentre, with funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) — under their Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility.
It is operated ‘by and for the community’ and has a limited radius of between 20-30 kilometres from the station, serving the scattered longhouses and farms.
The creation of Radio Bario is highly significant. Not only will the station broadcast in the Kelabit language, but for the first time listeners will hear news, interviews, stories and music with direct relevance to their culture and history.
Radio Bario has also been successful in mobilising the local community to make the station their own.
The people of Bario undertake every role, from on-air presentation to collecting local news and encouraging the participation of the whole community.
It is the product of four years of planning by eBario Sdn Bhd, which collaborated with RadioActive Ltd. RadioActive is a UK-based company with a strong track record in installing community radio stations.
They provide equipment, training and technical assistance to help build community radio stations around the world, having previously worked in over 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Community radio is a not-for-profit low-cost limited reach broadcasting facility providing a variety of information and entertainment services to the residents of a restricted geographical area.
Normally operated by volunteer programme producers drawn from within the community itself, its function is to supplement mainstream broadcasting with local news, entertainment and cultural programming, mostly in the local language.
John Tarawe of eBario expects that the success of the Radio Bario launch would lead to the launch of other community stations in Malaysia. He said in a press release, “our work with eBario has demonstrated a successful track record with community mobilisation. Radio is one of the best examples of that.”
RadioActive director Max Graef says; “Radio Bario is our 50th project. Each one is unique, but Bario has been a memorable experience because of the warmth and commitment of the local community.
“After just a few training sessions we’re already hearing some great results on air. Community radio can have a great impact, especially considering the low costs involved in getting a station started. We hope to see many other communities in Malaysia benefiting from this technology in the near future.”
As national radio does not reach many of the isolated and remote rural parts of Sarawak, and with its assortment of mother-tongue languages, community radio opens up a new channel of communication for the State’s underserved communities.
Moreover, it provides opportunities for conducting public debates on issues of local interest.
With the widespread use of hand phones these days, listeners can participate in phone-ins from wherever they happen to be.
Useful information can now be easily spread throughout isolated communities in a faster, more timely and economical manner than ever before.
Stanley Isaac, the station manager, is one person who’d endorse this view. A former schoolteacher, Stanley presented Radio Bario’s very first live programme in his native Kelabit.
“For three years it was a dream. Now people are blinking their eyes and saying “Is it true?” he enthused.
Ex-Pemanca Ngimat Ayu added: “This is a very important thing because the indigenous communities don’t hear themselves in the mainstream media and now we feel connected. This will help to conserve and preserve our language and our identity.”
Given the positive experience of Radio Bario’s launch, eBario and RadioActive have formed a joint venture to install more radio stations in Malaysia.
At a recent dialogue in Miri, several representatives of other indigenous groups in Sarawak expressed their interest in establishing their own community radio stations.
Anyone interested to do so can contact John Tarawe on 0194381777 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A report from The Star:
Malaysia’s first community station to broadcast from Kelabit Highlands
MIRI: Bario Radio, the first community radio to be established in Malaysia, will broadcast in the Kelabit language by the end of next month.
This non-profit radio station will be managed by eBario Sdn Bhd, the operator of the award-winning eBario rural telecentre.
A dialogue organised by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to discuss the station’s policies and practices here yesterday garnered the participation of 20 interested parties from Bario and Miri.
The dialogue was aimed at stimulating public debate among the stakeholders on policy formulations and related practices that would allow further applications of community radio stations in Malaysia.
The station has received a RM50,000 funding from the International Fund for Agriculture Development and Centre of Excellence for Rural Informatics and will be managed by volunteers.
Bario Radio will be implemented next month with the installation of equipment followed by training of local Kelabits in the operation of the station.
The programmes will be conducted in Kelabit by volunteer broadcasters drawn from the community.
According to Unimas Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations director Professor Alvin Yeo, the station would reach out to people in remote areas in Sarawak, initially around Bario.
“The dialogue was to raise awareness and understanding of guidelines for implementation among potential adopters of community radio stations.
“It was also an effort to initiate momentum for the wider deployment of community radio stations in Malaysia as a means of achieving the national development goals.
“Hence, it will create awareness among policymakers on the need of Malaysia’s indigenous people, particularly the Kelabits, to have their own media to overcome their vulnerability and marginalisation,” said Yeo.
The eBario project was started by the local university in 1998 to provide computers and the Internet to the remote and isolated highland community in Bario.
The project has had a considerable impact not only on the residents but also on the development of Government policies to provide similar facilities for the rest of rural Malaysia.
In 2002, the eBario facilities were handed over to the people of Bario and eBario Sdn Bhd was established as a vehicle to continue its operations and management.
The eBario telecentre was meant to provide communication technology for Bario to reach out to the world.
Under a new policy by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Comission (MCMC), other communities in Malaysia, especially isolated kampungs and ethnic groups that are starved of information, are assured of enjoying similar benefits.
Under this policy, MCMC granted the licence for the first community radio station to be operated as Bario Radio.