Worries Over INFORMOTRAC Closure
...As Project Winds Down in 2012
Monrovia, March 27, 2012
(INFORMOTRAC), a community radio training and empower project of the Liberia Media Center (LMC)
Mixed feelings have greeted news of the scaling down of the Initiative for the Mobile Training of Community Radio (INFORMOTRAC), a community radio training and empower project of the Liberia Media Center (LMC) supported by Radio Netherlands.
The five year project, which started in 2007 ends in December, 2012. It has already launched its first quarter training cycle for this year which has transformed from its usual workshop approach to mentoring. Already, the LMC has dispatched its team to central and northern Liberia -covering Bong and Lofa counties where the team mentored volunteers of Radio Gbarnga and Radio Bongese in Bong county, as well as Radio Life, Radio Kintoma and Radio Tamba Tailor in Lofa county.
However, some radio station managers are expressing concerns that the closure of the INFORMOTRAC project poses more problems for many of these community stations that are still grappling with logistics and capacity building challenges and their communities have not fully embraced ownership of the stations.
The LMC started its INFORMOTRAC Project in partnership with Radio Netherlands in 2007 providing journalism training, technical training and equipment initially for seven radio stations, adding10 more community stations in 2010.
John Gayflor, Kintoma Radio Manager acknowledged the huge support the station has received from INFORMOTRAC but regrets that the Lofa county administration and people have hardly accepted the station as an important development tool with little or no commitment to support it. “We use these stations to articulate government policies, promote community initiatives and enhance community participation in governance and serve as channel for public information and entertainment. Yet, County authorities only use the radio when they have a pressing need.
“When the President was coming to Lofa for the Celebration of the National Independence Day which was celebrated in Voinjama,” Mr. Gayflor explained, “it was Radio Kintoma that was used to publicize development programs, projects, activities as well as development meetings.”
“It was then that the station received US$10,000 from the county administration to run our generator and compensate our staff and volunteers. But since then, there hasn't been any attention from the people and local government of Lofa County.”
He said Radio Kintoma broadcast five out of six languages in the region, but community support is not forthcoming.
Mr. Gayflor added: “In the face of these challenges of lack of definite source of power supply, inadequate technical and financial support, community people don't take ownership of the stations and local government structures have done nothing to rescue community radio stations.”
The CRS managers especially in Lofa county stated that community people themselves have not grasped the concept of community radio operation in spite of the numerous contributions these stations have made towards forging the social, political and developmental agenda of the their various localities.
Conversely, the management of Radio Gbarnga and Radio Bongese in Bong county however have made significant strides in terms of overcoming financial difficulties and sustainability when compared with Radios Life, Tamba Taikor and Kintoma in Lofa county which are burdened with problems.
“The situation of neglect of community radio stations by communities is critical mainly in Lofa county,” said an LMC Community Radio trainer, Mr. Bill Jarkloh.
These mainly Community Radio Stations have already established the Association of Lofa Community Radio Stations. The Association’s Chairman, John Gayflor, says the aim is to address the challenges facing the stations. Samuel Kemayan, manager of Radio Tamba Taikor in Foyah believes such an association is a giant step towards campaigning for state and county support for radio stations. .
Meanwhile, some CRS managers are appealing for “spare-parts to accompany future equipment support by LMC”. They are calling on the Liberia Media Center to assist with building CRS human resource with technical training before the end of the INFORMOTRAC Program in December.
Mr. John Gayflor commended the work-plan by the LMC technician to conduct routine visits for maintenance.
Another major challenge faced by Community Radio Stations, says LMC Trainer, Bill Jarkloh, is that
CRS loses its volunteers after training them for reasons ranging from poor incentives – including pay and the search for higher education.
“Usually, people who are trained for first quarter are not available for second quarter training; those trained for second quarter are not available for third quarter. “This has been the situation since I joined the LMC a year ago. The reason is either they lost interest for lack of pecuniary incentives or they leave for urban Monrovia or elsewhere in search of college education,” Mr. Jarkloh said.
He added that where a university is within the proximity of a station, the excuse becomes inadequate time to attend classes.
Mr. Jarkloh explained that some community radio stations often complained of mobility to cover far away areas that are receiving their signals.
“Some have no outside broadcast (OB) equipment. The lack of basic equipment and trained technicians to maintain the equipment, including computers, transmitters and electric power generators pose basic challenges”, said Mr. Jarkloh.
The management of these stations are calling on the LMC and its partners to help with Community Sensitization to encourage county authorities and community dwellers to give support in cash or kind to sustain the stations.