This network of community radio stations will reach over 10 million mostly rural and remote populations that have little or no access to reliable and demand driven information. It will provide a platform for ongoing development and self-help for thousands of communities in the region.
The network of stations will provide the resources for PMC and its local partners to produce hundreds of hours of local language radio dramas in major local languages. A regional project office will manage and execute the initiative with local staff trained in satellite rebroadcasting and impact monitoring and evaluation. The project will measure not only the listening reach of the programs, but also behavioral change resulting from the serial dramas. This collaborative commitment can be an historic advance for millions of West Africans to obtain consistent access to vital and relevant information to improve and, in many cases, save lives.
First Voice International's (FVI) Africa Learning Channel has pioneered satellite radio programming in West Africa with support from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, USAID, and others for more than five years. By providing relatively inexpensive satellite radios, training and relevant programs to community radio stations that rebroadcast on FM and AM radio, people in even the remote areas of the Sahel and West Africa now have access to good quality information where little or none previously existed. Recently, Population Media Center (PMC) and FVI have partnered on a USAID initiative to provide a series of short radio 'soap operas' on child protection and reproductive health in Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso through a nascent but growing group of community radio stations. Written by local scriptwriters and cast with local actors, the drama was recorded in a market version of the Bambara language that is widely understood throughout the three countries. The evaluation data demonstrate that this approach was successful not only in reaching millions of remote and information-poor people, but resulted in enhanced self-help capacity to address social crises and health challenges.
This new initiative will build upon this collaborative and locally focused approach to develop a vibrant and sustainable network of community radio stations across the region that is linked by satellite radio programming.
The proposed combination of communication technologies takes advantage of 'leapfrogging' synergy between satellite and conventional FM radio-through the tested rebroadcast model employed by FVI Africa Learning Channel and more recently FVI and PMC's radio serial dramas.
FVI will provide its non-profit below-market price for broadcasting services with substantial corporate contributions in the form of donated satellite uplink costs, in-kind contributions, etc. PMC brings to bear its proven methodology for content production, results monitoring and regional experience. Donors may select from a menu of sponsorship opportunities that offer varied kinds and levels of ways to support the partnership financially.