THE CASE OF DORMAA FM (Ghana)

4th PanAfrican Conference of AMARC Africa 27-30 April 2009, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire SOCIAL IMPACT OF COMMUNITY RADIO STATIONS THE CASE OF DORMAA FM (G...
Author: Daniel McCoy
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4th PanAfrican Conference of AMARC Africa 27-30 April 2009, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire SOCIAL IMPACT OF COMMUNITY RADIO STATIONS

THE CASE OF DORMAA FM (Ghana) Dormaa Fm is indeed the mouthpiece of the community. All social announcements from the Municipal Assembly (seat of local government) are aired on the station. Most of them are either at reduced prices or free to air depending on what the announcement is to achieve. Those with commercial values like rates, market toll, etc. are paid for whilst those on communal labour and assembly meetings and its live coverage are free. In the same way, announcements from the Police, Military, and some from Customs and Exercise mainly on security, lost items, wanted persons, accidents, suspected deaths, etc. are free. Church meeting and activities of various organizations are broadcast on Dormaa fm. As a result of our cheap prices compared to surrounding commercial stations, the station is preferred. Because some people believe in spiritual development, the local Council of Churches have free night time to preach besides the cheap time that the various faith based societies pay for. During dry seasons, noted for bushfires, people rush to inform the station on detection of fire instead of the fire station which is just a stone throw from the station. Missing children and found lost items are first brought to the station. Accidents, power failure, pipe bursts and many other social misfortunes are reported to us even though the appropriate offices and their phone numbers might be known. It has become common that any thing that a child picks that does not belong to him/her is quickly sent to the station for announcement to be made for the owner. The Saturday children programme is so dear to them that some parents use it as a bait to warn their children from wrong doing, e.g. If you don’t stop this or that, or if you are late for school, Dormaa FM will not allow you to be part of the programme. Many social activities are considered not to be done without the presence of Dormaa FM Programmes at long distance places are withhold till the Dormaa FM team has arrived. As a result of Dormaa FM’s participation with some of the communities, e.g. Dwen, Masu, Koforidua, Asikasu Numbers one and two, in the management of their natural resource (forest) they are now benefiting from the timber firms and also recording a decline in their unauthorized activities. Dormaa Fm gives free air time for all activities of people with disabilities and reduced cost for HIV/AIDS CBO's. There is also free air time for the Ghana health Services and the Dormaa Prosy Hospital. There is also free time for the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Electoral Commission (EC), Ministry of Education (Ghana Education Service), Ministry Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Traditional Council and Sports Council. Funeral and social announcements are at drastically low prices. There are

some programmes where the audience is allowed to contribute through letters and phone in. The non formal educational programmes under the Ministry of Education is making waves making people literate and acquiring income generation skills. On local governance, they are also involved in decision making through programmes. The listeners clubs in about 17 communities not only support the station in the provision of tables, chairs, carpets and cupboards but also themselves by attending communal labour, funerals and weddings. On public holidays and other important days, Dormaa Fm organizes fun games with the community for not only fun but to keep fit. The station Director and many of the volunteers serve on very important committees and boards in the community. E.g. The station Director, Mr. Fiifi Ofosu-Okyere serves on:• • • • • • • •

Dormaa Senior High School Board. St. Cecilia School Management committee. Classic keep fit executive. St. Theresa of the Catholic Church. Municipal Polio Eradication Committee. Municipal HIV/AIDS Committee. Municipal Road Safety Committee. Traditional Committee Protocol Committee. • Dormaa Presbyterian hospital publicity committee On agriculture, which is the main occupation of the community, Dormaa Fm has special agricultural programmes. The agric team visits farms and do some field recordings. The studio panel is usually led by the District Agricultural Extension Officer with very important inputs from the Farm Radio International. It is interesting to note that before a farmer wins a district, regional or national farmers’ day award, question on Dormaa Fm’s agric programme like time, topic recently discussed, the presenter, signature tune and some panel members are well answered. It is with pride to mention that through the programme, poultry farmers from the community have won the district, regional and national best poultry awards including vehicles at impressive ceremonies at the station. The host of the programme Kwame Peprah (11 years experience) through the interest from the resource persons and some farmers also entered into grass cutter farming and was adjudged the best in the community with some awards in 2007 at the district farmers’ day rally. The yearly awards day are also broadcast live on Dormaa Fm or recorded for the late broadcast depending on the location of celebration. Those days every important ceremony in the community and at important places like the palace, Assembly, Independence day celebrations, funerals, invites for the master of ceremony (MC) from the station’ s volunteers. AMONG THE KEY DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES ARE: • • •

Good roads. School buildings (modern). Provision of good drinking water. 2

• • • • • •

Access to good health (only one hospital in the large district with only four medical doctors). Chieftaincy disputes. HIV/AIDS threat. High rate of school drop outs. Teenage pregnancy. Drug abuse – marijuana and abortion.

AMONG THE GOOD GOVERNANCE CHALLENGES ARE: • • • • • • • • • •

Inefficient Municipal Assembly – leading to weak sub-structures like the unit committee. Buying of votes to win power: - Member of Parliament, Presiding Member, and Municipal Chief Executive. Non realization of the common fund from the central government meant for development. A greater part of the amount is deducted in Accra. The “whom you know” attitude putting square pegs into round holes. The fact that “politics” eats into all spheres of life – political opponents seems to be enemies. The high rise in corruption. It appears like one has to bribe in which ever way to get through. Unnecessary bureaucratic formalities at various organizations. The diminishing communal labour. The “it is government property” mentality. The high illiterate rate especially among females.

THE KEY CHALLENGES OF THE COMMUNITY STATION INCLUDE: Legal environment:- there is not a single legal practitioner practicing the large community. They are all in the regional capital – Sunyani. This makes it difficult not only to do legal programmes but also acquire their pieces of advice or serve on the Executive Council. Again on all legal documents for the station, one has to travel all the long way to the national capital, Accra. Community radios and commercial ones all have to get registered at the same Register General Department in Accra and one can imagine the faith of the community radio considering its finances. Technical difficulties:- we all buy from the same market at the same prices. The big transmitters of the big commercial stations sometimes jam our frequencies. Dormaa 100.7 competes with 100.3, 100.5, 100.1, etc. Unreliable power supply from the national grid and unannounced power -cuts not only cause damage to equipment but a drain on fuel purchase for the stand by generator. Our records indicate that there can be as many as five unannounced power-cuts in a single day. The insurgent of many radio stations in recent times have soared the already expensive equipment. Radio Production Training:- much credit must be given to the Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN). In fact over ten members of the staff have and continue to receive quality Radio Production Training. Some popular programmes like:

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• • • •

Community participation in natural resources. Community participation in governance. The non-formal education programmes Gender. Etc. were all as a result of GCRN training. As a result of the certificates acquired, two members of the staff – Margaret Azuporka and Fiifi Ofosu-Okyere (producers) are members of the Ghana Journalists Association. However, for lack of funds, GCRN is unable to organize the training regularly.

Participation:- the community is always ready to receive the Dormaa Fm production team for both rehearsals and recording. Besides transportation problems which sometimes lead to cancellations, participation is excellent. So often is the visit that some of them feel like the station is in the distance not barrier. Audience continue to offer themselves as volunteers in the communities as latest trend even now is the erection of speakers in communities for group listening. This can be seen in Kyeremasu, Aboabo 3 and 4 Amasu, Kofibadukrom, Yaakrom which are referred to as Dormaa Fm information centre. There frequent communal labour at the station’s premises, donation of gifts and equipment and regular visits and school excursions. Management’s challenges:- the political situation makes a neutral station manager as against the ruling party especially the Municipal Chief Executive. The lack of transport is a major challenge in a large district as ours. Volunteers who get the opportunity to be trained by the station are poached by the commercial station. The high esteem status given to management is also a challenge. Even though the allowances are low, the community still expects handsome donation at occasions. Some volunteers in the beginning hide their bad characters only to be known when caught in the act. There is the tendency for interference from the community when a disciplinary action is being taken against a staff. Sometimes prominent chiefs and politicians are involved. Marriages and household chores are problems the female volunteers face especially to get them to attend long away from home workshops and other assignments. This creates gender problems. Dormaa Fm’s Financial Resources are not the best. The major source of income is through funeral announcements (we however, give free health talk shows meaning we don’t want people to die). After settling utility bills like power, water, telephone and allowances nothing or very little is left. Dormaa Fm was established in 1978 by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) together with two others at Apam (Central Region) and Bolgatanga (Upper East), which are dormant. In fact Dormaa Fm is the oldest existing Fm station in Ghana. In 1998, GBC established the regional Fm station in Sunyani (Radio BAR) and therefore handed over the station to the community and left. The new management headed by the current station director; with much complains from the community changed the 10watt transmitter to 300 and later 1000 to cover the whole of the district. It operates on 100.7 and currently a full member of GCRN. There are 45 volunteers, 7 of whom are of the core staff. It has an executive council, a management team and the staff. We hop to finish the fence wall around the premises to avoid any encroachment and get a small bus for the station. It is

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hoped that in 5 years time, most of the volunteers would have had GCRN training and also would have replaced some old equipment. Dormaa Fm confronts some of these problems as a result of real dedicated volunteers and a committed station director. Five of the staff / volunteers have worked with the station for over twelve years. They are Kwame Peprah, Kwadwo Appia-Kyereme, Adom Divine Joseph, Adwoa Alice Yeboaa and Akosua Felicia Marboa. Since the problems are not kept secret, some community members, the district Assembly, Traditional Council and residents in the Diaspora support us in cash and kind. The GCRN also lead and facilitates the station especially the director on the way to run a community radio efficiently.

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