MONROVIA-Community radio stations across Liberia are operated, owned, and influenced by the communities they serve as a source of news and information.
They are generally nonprofit and provide a mechanism for enabling individuals, groups, and communities to tell their own stories, to share experiences and, in a media-rich world, to become creators and contributors of media.
In Liberia, community radios have made themselves essential, especially after the war through the creation of broad-based content that is popular and relevant to a local, specific audience but is often overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters in Monrovia and other urban areas.
While they are operated, owned, and influenced by the communities they serve, they sadly survive at the mercy of “handouts” either from politicians, philanthropic groups or individuals.
The bad state of Liberia’s economy which does not provide any effective development of small and medium-size enterprises that could support advertisement with these stations could can be blamed.
Also, many of these community radios are owned and operated by politicians, especially representatives and senators in the fifteen counties who exercise political authority over them.
But whatever, their ownership may be, they all serve one central purpose: to service their communities with news, information and entertainment in different respect.
Recently, a team of journalists visited community radios in Bong, Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties to access and enhance relationship building, as well as obtain feedback from the running community radios in Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba counties.
In Bong County, the management of Super Bongesse Radio and radio Gbarnga were approached and all two complained of lack of funds to run the stations on the daily basis.
They spoke about the lack of compensation for staff, fuel oil and basic maintenance cost.
Among the problem they listed was no external resources coming to the stations in the face of little of no advertisement.
But amidst these bold challenges, they spoke well of how ArcelorMittal is the only concession in Liberia from whom they are able to source small finances to keep running.
“The only money coming to us is income from the ArcelorMittal Jingles and Inside AML 30Mins pre-recorded features”, they noted.
The Manager for Radio Gbarnga who holds BSc in Education made it even clearer when he disclosed that as a manager his take-home pay is just L$3,000 equivalent to US$20 monthly.
“We cannot even find money to compensate our staff adequately”, he said adding it is from the little we get from ArcelorMittal that we are able to give little transportation to the volunteers at the station he added
While in Nimba County the community radios visitation team met with staff from Radio Nimba, Radio Shenwii, radio Karn Voice of Peace, Nimba Kergarmahm, Radio Saclepea, Radio Voice of Tappita and Radio Voice of Yarwin, Mehnsonnoh/Nimba D-9 TV.
Like Bong County, the Nimba community radio executives hailed their partnership with ArcelorMittal as the only concession in the iron rich county that was given them the opportunity to air jingles in return for monthly payment.
The Nimba community radio stakeholders think that AML’s approach of introduction jingles and the Inside AML features is yielding fruits with community dwellers being able to get real-time news and information unlike before.
Radio Nimba Manager Melvin L. Suah is quoted as saying “if we have more of what happening between us the ArcelorMittal, the station will be developed and will be able to deliver more news and information to the member of the communities in which we operate”
Five community radio stations including Magic FM, Abeleejay FM, Radio Dukpa, Radio Wee and Radio Gbehzohn formed part of the engagement in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
The Grand Bassa team outlines difficulties associated with the running of community base stations in the county and appealed to ArcelorMittal to improve the number of advertisements it was giving.
“At the end of the month, we need to be able to compensate our staff. We don’t have the money because the no contracts and advertisements coming to us”, said Christopher Yawoe who manages Magic Radio in Buchanan City.
Chis said he appreciates the partnership with ArcelorMittal but called on other businesses, and concessions in the county to join by giving advertisements to community radios.
Sylvester O. Dobson, the manager of “Radio Wee“ which is in district #4, Grand Bassa County lauded AML for trusting his station to broadcast its AML’s content”
“As we stand, we are waiting to receive payment from ArcelorMittal to be able to stretch hands to those who are holding the station up and running”.
The story of these community radios speaks broadly of why the government and all its actors must move quickly to rectify the Third ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement.
Because, when the company expands and fulfills its over one billion dollars investment package, community radios in the affected counties will benefit from increased financial resources.
Such financial viability will even position the to-be independent, create and broadcast community-related contents that will promote unity, development, peace and stability.