Thursday, 2 September 2010

eBario becomes Malaysia’s first community radio station

September 1, 2010


Issued by eBario Sdn Bhd


eBario Sdn Bhd, has been granted the Content Applications Service Provider (CASP) Class license by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). With the CASP Class license, the company will be the first company to deploy a community radio station in Malaysia. eBario Sdn Bhd is a social enterprise that was established to operate the remote and isolated eBario telecentre located in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak. A community radio is a small scale, low cost, not for profit radio broadcasting system designed to deliver content that has specific interest to the community it serves.

“The concept is relatively new in Malaysia. With the registration of this license, we hope to transform the community radio services in Malaysia, and we are also pleased that this would allow us to play a part in delivering our innovative approach to the use of Information and Communications Technologies for the social and economic development of the people living in the remote Bario area” said John Tarawe, CEO eBario Sdn Bhd.

To ensure compliance to the new guidelines on community radio service issued out by MCMC, eBario as the community radio service provider will encourage members of the community that it serves to participate in both the operations of the service as well as in the selection and the provisioning of its programmes. Coverage of a community radio station should be limited to the particular geographical area of the targeted community and the service should not be operated for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise, as stipulated in the guidelines.

Community radio stations have blossomed in much of Africa and Latin America and they are springing up in neighbouring countries in Asia. Within their limited reach of 15-30 kilometres and the relatively low cost of setting up and ease of use, they are used by communities to broadcast information of local interest. Broadcasts are usually prepared by the residents themselves and are often conducted in local languages or dialects that national media do not cater to.

The Bario Radio community radio station is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), under its Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF). Mr. John Tarawe, CEO of eBario Sdn Bhd, a Kelabit resident of Bario and District Councilor, stated that “eBario’s proposal to set up the station was one of fourty successful submissions to the IPAF out of more than 800 from around the world. The station is intended to serve the people within the Forum of the Indigenous People of the Highlands of Borneo, which is known by its acronym FORMADAT (Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi).”

The eBario telecentre currently provides information services to the Bario community via shared public access to the internet. Having won multiple awards for its innovative approach to the use of Information and Communications Technologies for the social and economic development of the people living in the remote Bario area, the radio station is seen as a natural extension by delivering information right into the homes of the residents.

The station will be managed and operated by the community themselves; broadcasting much of its material in the local Kelabit language. With their internet connection, it is also planned to broadcast programmes on the internet to provide information services to the wider Kelabit diaspora living throughout Malaysia and beyond.

Members of the Bario community have been involved in every step of the proposal and they are enthusiastic about the prospect of operating their own radio station. They have expressed concern that their language is dying out as the younger Kelabit move away from the area. It is expected that the radio station will contribute towards a language revival.

The station will also broadcast local news collected by the residents themselves as well as stimulating debate on issues of local concern. It will provide a channel for public service announcements in the local Kelabit language, including the relaying of national news as well as providing information to promote better agriculture, encourage commercial enterprises, preserve the local culture, extend education and improve public health. The promoters of Bario Radio are optimistic that it will herald more such proposals for community radio stations to improve information flows to Malaysia’s isolated rural and indigenous communities.

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