Radio Broadcast: Best Medium of The Times


By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 15, 2004

How do we enfranchise the entire nation for the 2005 Elections? Let's hit the radio waves. Given the abysmal literacy rate in our country, the duty to reach out to the electorate, through radio broadcasts, cannot be overemphasized.

Compounding the issue of information dissemination is the strong grip that poverty has on the masses. A tattered infrastructure does not give us a break either. To place media emphasis on newspapers, the internet, and TV, giving semblance of high-tech standards, will not cut it. TV broadcast, the best medium in the world today, is a "no show" in Liberia. Where is the current to power them (TV's), even for those who can afford them? As for the internet based medium, forget it! A computer might as well be a "black snake" in Liberia today, let alone forking up the staggering cyber charges. How about the newspaper? That one, more people use it to do other things than read it. - Like wrapping goods and many more...

However, you don't play with the Liberia man's radio. He will go to the ends of the world to ensure that it is working at all times. To him, any brand of batteries might as well be "EverReady", because the radio is his "energizer bunny". He will energize the batteries in the sun, even by or above the fireplace. For enhanced signal, his copper wire, aluminum foil, or even cigarette wrappers "will not tell him lie". By hook or crook, he will be ready for the special news hour broadcast in his dialect! Tell me of any Liberian remote village that did not have at least one radio around which an entire community gathers to receive the news during the special hours, and I will tell you that it does not exist.

It's time to revisit our roots, the days when ELBC and ELWA, and yes, Community Radio Stations like The Voice of Pleebo, Radio Maryland, would carry the news, not only in English, but also in several major dialects – Kran, Vai, Grebo, Kru, Bassa, Kpelle, etc. Text medium has to be translated for the consumption of a broad base audience. Bring back Short Wave frequencies that had a home in every house, every sidewalk
The Sunday Afternoon Request Program is nostalgically missing.

At the National Election Commission (NEC), Ms. Johnson-Morris has issued a "decree" that SHE is going to allow "ONLY SIX WEEKS" for election campaigns. Asking why, we only get some antiquated paragraph in the Constitution thrown at us. Now look at this. Even the enduring democracies of our times, those that are time tested like the United States and others found in Europe, do allow more campaign time than that. Why can't we dispense that old rule just as we did with the "Ten-year Residency Rule"? Pragmatism is the name, and its equal application across the spectrum is required.

"ONLY SIX WEEKS" to cram the identities and platforms of a "trillion" political parties and their respective presidential nominees? Wow! Not even UL students can swing that. What a strong argument for Short Wave radio broadcast! Under those stringent circumstances, only through radios can this monumental task be attempted in a way that encompasses the majority that is mainly an illiterate electorate?

We've learned that UNMIL has a radio station, but once you go past Dualla, you lose signal. Extending the signal nationwide is one giant favor that would prop up the Rebuilding efforts. Maybe, UNMIL will grumble that the UN cannot breast feed us all the time. OK, where are the Liberian entrepreneurs? A short wave radio enterprise should not prove to be a short-term venture. Trust that before TV's and computers hit every household in Liberia, thus rendering radio stations obsolete, the cock would have crowed until it is hoarse, the villages would be sprawling with skyscrapers, and West Point would have been transformed into a resort that many are dreaming of. The return on such an investment is long-term, indeed.

Is the NTGL/NTLA aware of this, at all? Is it aware of the indispensable value of the radio in this transitional period and beyond? Radio is the cheapest and most efficient way to reach out to the nation at this time. Just think of its role in getting the warning out to renegade rebels and their commanders to check out of Sapo National Park, and also stop all lording over the hapless masses in the hinterland. Talk about empowering the people to stay abreast of what is current in the nation.

Finally, to the "plenty" president "wa-na-bees", why are you not thinking along these lines? How do you think you are going to get the votes of the people? Unless you are, as usual, expecting some "gbagbati" arrangements that would just catapult you into power. During the 1997 Presidential Elections campaign you were all crying foul when Charles Taylor monopolized the air waves with his propaganda radio stations, while he stifled the licensing of short wave radio broadcast by others. Did that take a toll on you? Taylor is history. What are you saying now? You should all be pushing for at least a state sponsored short wave radio system that would blast your names and field your slogans and platforms on radio waves across the country.

While at it, you might want to call Ms Johnson-Morris to another meeting to revisit that campaign commencement rule.