Sustaining ‘Voice of Coastal People’ in Bangladesh

on 19 July 2018. Posted in News from the region

Upokuler KothaAfter three years of pilot implementation, the Upokuler Kotha (Voice of the Coastal People) community radio program in Bangladesh moves forward with its sustainability plan. Starting June this year when its external funding from IFAD ended, the radio program will be sustained through various workable mechanisms.

Included as strategies for sustainability are organization and formalization of existing collaborative efforts; policy support; building up of multiple fund sources; upgrading capabilities in community radio broadcasting and developing its technical content ; information and knowledge sharing ; and technical upgrading of equipment and facilities.

The formalization of the Upokuler Kotha Network (UKN) has been done through a group resolution, with the Agriculture Information Service of the Department of Agricultural Extension, Ministry of Agriculture as its host coordinator. This is considered strategic as station managers noted that community radios need to be linked with government development line agencies to be able to secure access to content and even funding . Despite this alliance with government, community radios shall maintain their participatory character, with primary accountability to the members of their listening clubs.

Policy support is already an advantage to the network ’s sustainability. Early this year, the Bangladesh Government has announced the approval of a new law on Bangladesh Community Radio Policy of 2017 . The law allows community radios to
to dedicate up to 10 percent of their airtime to commercial advertisements, thus, enabling them to raise funds for their operation. Advertisers can include agricultural companies distributing seeds, feeds, and fertilizers.

In addition to the commercial advertisements, they would continue with their multiple fund sourcing through sponsorships, and project contracting. Unlike advertisements, sponsorships would only entail mentions of sponsors’ names during program airing and would not eat up so much of their time . For project contracting, they will continue to provide services to development programs of organizations like UNICEF, UNDP, PLAN International, BNNRC, BBC Media Action, BRAC, and national agencies whose mandates relate to improving the lives of the rural poor.

Basic to their operation is being equipped with skills and capacities that would enable their staff to keep up with technological advancements. Hence, additional and continuous trainings will be conducted for their regular staff and volunteers on production of radio programs in various formats, as well as ICT applications for content sharing and dissemination. Likewise, they will be trained to acquire better understanding of technical contents they air such as climate smart agriculture, early warning, disaster management, and climate change adaptation techniques.

Sustaining their efforts would further involve creation and maintenance of web site for uploading knowledge resources for radio such as technical content, good practices, and success stories. They can also download other resources online and at the same time create their visibility for expanding opportunities in fund sourcing and capability building.

Beyond maintenance, the network members would strive to upgrade their technical capability through the acquisition of a stable internet connection for web-based broadcasting and online broadcasting. This is also to synchronize with advancements in mobile phone technology. This aspect has been noted as the most challenging aspect of their sustainability and may need government intervention to attain it.

Upokuler Kotha is a radio program being implemented by four community or rural radio stations in the coastal southern part of Bangladesh. They include Radio Krishi, Lokobetar, Radio Nalta, and Radio Sundraban and now form the UKN . Together, they regularly host talk shows and magazine programs focusing on climate resilient agricultural technologies and infrastructures developed to respond to problems brought about by changing climate. Their local programs are eventually shared with regional Bangla Betar radio station for wider reach.