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Mobile radio reaches out to Nepali communities

10 December 2009

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Antenna Foundation, in partnership with local FM stations, is helping rural people in Nepal’s hilly terrain access to information and opportunity to participate in the political process. Under the Doko Radio initiative community people are provided radio receivers as well as training for carrying out on-location recording.

A project of the Antenna Foundation, an NGO that is dedicated to public service broadcasting in Nepal, Doko Radio aims to take democracy to the doorsteps of local people living in remote areas across a difficult terrain.

Doko Radio aims to take democracy to the doorsteps of local people/ Photo credit: Livemint

In Nepal, the word doko refers to the baskets that women use to carry water, firewood etc. Madhu Acharya, the head of Antenna Foundation, describes Doko as a mobile radio station that brings information to areas that might otherwise not have access to it. “It’s a backpack radio station,” he says.

Doko staff travel across Nepal, stopping at locations for a few days where they create and broadcast local programming that residents can tune in to on their existing transmitters.

In radio-shadow region, which have no transmitters at all, Antenna Foundation distributes cheap devices, allowing the local population to tune into their programming.

While Doko first started off as a mobile initiative that focused entirely on creating and broadcasting its own programming in a region for a few days before moving on, it didn’t take long for the organisation to realise that it wasn’t having a lasting impact. Further consideration led the staff to conclude that their best shot at enhancing Doko’s impact would to partner with local radio stations.

While the organisation has curbed traveling this year, as of last year, it had traveled to 25 locations, and partnered with existing FM stations in most of these.

“We provide then with training and technology so they can do on-location recording,” explains Acharya. “Before this, the broadcasts were limited to studios. Stations weren’t collecting voices from the grassroots.” He explains that this is a far more sustainable approach: one that maximises ROI.

Among the major issues that Doko aims to tackle is how to create consensus in a region that is as politically complex as Nepal. According to Acharya, once the Doko team explained their objectives, they ran into little resistance from Maoists, and it was only in one or two regions that they faced significant difficulties.

Looking towards the future, Acharya says that Doko’s role could be transformed into one of disaster relief. For now, he underscores that the initiative’s biggest priority is to develop an effective partnership with local media stations.

“Over time when every district has its own radio station, the tool we provide might be outdated. But any lasting outcome we have will be from encouraging local stations to interact with the grassroots.”

Doko Radio won an award in the community broadcasting category of the Manthan awards, which recognise best e-content practices in South Asia.

Source : Livemint

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