Rekindling Community Radio -Feon I’ Ranomafana (Voice of Ranomafana)

Last Wednesday I joined the Mayor of Ranomafana, a group of comune workers, government observers and CVB staff on a mission to bust into Ranomafana’s radio station in the first of many steps towards reopening the abandoned site. The station has remained unused for the past 2 years when it was closed abruptly after funding ceased from a major broadcast training project.

As the crowbar dealt its final blow to the corroded lock, I took a sharp, involuntary breath and peered into the dark room. It was immediately clear that the space had been vacated in a hurry, with all equipment, notebooks in place. Cobwebs framed a cute pair of red children’s sunglasses. Also evident was that the computers, rotting internally would need to be replaced , the mixer repaired. A fresh lick of paint was sorely wanting, but there was a great sense of optimism among the group for the start of a new era.

We convened at the newly appointed and energetic Mayor, Jose’s office where he lead empassioned discussions around station sustainability. All were wary of making the same mistakes of the past. An all too prevalent problem of community radio is sustaining operations across short term donor funding cycles.

The group resolved to hold further meetings with local NGOs and other key stakeholders and decided to come up with an annual budget that would include salaries, maintenance costs . The next step was to develop a governance model that ensured ongoing community ownership, fiscal independence and donor interest. To this end, Lovosoa and I spent a day brainstorming governance structures and came up with a document outlining an organisationa structure as well as rules and procedures. The station would be community governened with a voluntary, elected and representative executive committee. Transparency of finances would be ensured through open processes and regular community meetings. NGOs would be invited to pay a monthly membership fee, and for this they would be granted air time for social programming on topics such as environment, education or health.

The coming weeks will be vital for the station’s future- our proposed model will be discussed soon and a test signal is due to go out into villages surrounding Ranomafana next Wednesday. We’re keen to broadcast as widely as possible!

All going well the aim is to coincide the grand station opening with Women’s Day celebrations on March 8th. As they say in the industry… “stay tuned!”IMG_2089

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