2 February 2013

Tanzania: Can Community Radios Quench Rural People's Desire for News?


THE Tanzanian Broadcasting Services Act of 1993 has brought remarkable achievements in the history of broadcasting industry in the country, assuring private and individual organizations ownership of patterns of broadcasting which are licensed.

For effective adaptation and implementation of the 1993 Act, the government enacted the Tanzania Communication Authority Act in 2003 to pave way for three distinct ownership of the industry; Commercial, Public and Community. D espite the three forms of media ownership, much emphasis has been directed to commercial ownership. E

ven though the stateowned radio station continues struggling to become a full public owned outlet, a number of shortfalls can meanwhile be recorded. It has been reported that operation of the said commercial and public media outlets specifically for radio stations have raised undependable questions amongst the majority poor and marginalized communities. As some questions the validity of a need for public radio station whose frequencies ends hundred miles away from the village.

Majority claims the need for effective community radios to promote flow of information from one society to another. "We normally listen to foreign radio stations when entertainments programmes are on-air. For some occasions we get access to Swahili produced programmes from neighbouring Kenya," noted Sanja Sundi a resident of Ololosokwan village in Ngorongoro District, Arusha region.

The 67 years old Sundi was commenting on the recently inaugurated community radio station alias Loliondo FM- a jointly formed community radio station. Supporting Sundi's argument, Loliondo based dweller Oloseinga Machunugwa said the government needed to speed-up rural electrification to enable access of current information and communication networking in remote areas.

Apart from radio waves, he said it has been terrific for them to loom mobile networks and thus influence a stagnant economic. He applauded initiatives by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Airtel Tanzania for financing the community radio station. Speaking at the launching ceremony of the project, the Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa commended the initiative that resulted to an installation of solar power by Helvetic Solar Contractors.

The minister was confident that the community radio project will connect most of the rural areas to the rest of the world and facilitate them with radio communication. "What I can still emphasize is that my ministry is at the forefront of ensuring that all communities in the country are adequately served by all forms of communication tools that empower social and economic transformation," he said.

While the Helvetic Solar Contractors Managing Director, Eng Patrick Ngowi noted of how great it was to see how solar energy can unite villages together through powering a radio station he remarked; "it is a great privilege that UNESCO and Helvetic Group are a part of this." He said despite his company been named the Fastest Growing and Number One in the Top 100 Mid Sized Company in Tanzania (2012 - 2013) there was still a need to electrify rural communities with alternative power solutions for better livelihood.

UNESCO's Programme Specialist for Communication and Information, Al-Amin Yusuph called on both the state and nonstate actors need to work together to connect communities that are not covered. He expressed concerns that the entire Ngorongoro district has limited means of communication, very limited access to mainstream local media, as most citizens listen to radios in Kenya.

This is even worse as the area has no electricity while roads are in poor state. "Residents of Ngorongoro need development support to continue preserving the environment since the Maasai communities in the district have co-existed with wildlife for years without problems," he said. The UNESCO official was of a view that with the growing population and increased economic activities in the area there is a pressing need for community dialogue on best ways of promoting development while at the same time maintaining the conservation activities.

"Evidence shows that a free, independent and pluralistic media environment is essential for fostering democracy. Moreover, by providing a means for Communicating and accessing information, the media can help to ensure that citizens are equipped with the tools necessary to make informed choices and enhance their participation in decision-making on issues that affect their lives," Yusuph stressed. Loliondo FM was principally provided with all primary resources that include technical trainings to some members of the community to independently manage the station.

Yannick Ndoinyo, Loliondo Ward Councillor and supervisor of the radio station in his remarks said the 6KW full powered radio station will not only serve the people in Ololosokwan village but also other 14 neighbouring villages. Communication firm Airtel Tanzania and UNESCO Community radio project is focused on marginalized communities on issues such as witchcraft, high rate of HIV/AIDS transmission and female genital mutilation (FGM).

It will also deal with illiteracy, education for school-age going children and generally enhance the access to communication to rural dwellers. Similar efforts for community radio stations are afoot in areas such as Sengerema in Mwanza, Karagwe in Kagera in addition to Chake Chake in Pemba, Makunduchi in Unguja and Pangani in Tanga. Kyela and Kahama districts in Mbeya and Shinyanga regions respectively have also been lined up for the project.

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