Nelly Bassily | December 17, 2007
By George Jobe, Director, Mudzi Wathu Community Radio Station
What would have been a total blackout to Mudzi Wathu Radio Station’s broadcasting, in Mchinji district, turned out to be a different case for its listeners because of use of modern technology. An MP3 Player served the role of Studio-to-Transmitter Links (STL). The listeners of the station had had a two-months dead air on the station because its signal had been interfered with so much that one could hear nothing when they tuned on to the radio station. Management of the station resolved to stop broadcasting. All equipment was switched off in March 2007 as efforts were made to procure other STLs. Rumours made rounds in the district that the station had been transferred to another district but life was re-instated when the station’s management decided to try use insights learned from the briefing meeting of African Radio Research Initiative project at Korea Garden Lodge on 31st May 2007. Use of the MP3 Player brought back to life broadcasting on the station.
Mudzi Wathu Community Radio Station came into being as part of the USAID funded project, In My Village, which was implemented in Mchinji district from February to October 2006. The project, which was contracted to the American Institute for Research and implemented by CRECCOM, was designed to use radio as a medium of conveying messages across to mobilize towards communities mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS. The project promoted abstinence and faithfulness among the Mchinji residents; mobilized communities to support education of Orphans and Vulnerable Children and promoted care for People Living With HIV and AIDS. The project also procured a 30-minute airtime slot on the national Malawi Broadcasting Corporation for its weekly programme. The project implementers lobbied for equipment from Radio Systems Inc in the
The station was set at the bottom of
MACRA discovered that the problem was the preset STLs whose frequencies had not been given by the authority. The station was asked to procure other STLs, to be set on the then officially assigned frequency of 462 MHz. Broadcasting of programmes was suspended pending arrival of STLs which CRECCOM ordered from Cape Town, in South Africa.
The problem now was that batteries would run out at night, a situation which annoyed listeners. This made the station’s management to revisit their technology. They bought an MP3 modulator which fits onto a lighter socket of a motor vehicle and plays materials from a flush disk. They bought a power adapter, connected it to the power tip of the modulator and plugged it to an electricity socket. The Broadcasters at the station were taken through further training. Materials were loaded on flush disks and played on the modulator. Cables connected the modulator’s headphone plug to the transmitter.
This improvised technology served the station for two months, June and July 2007, until the ordered STLs were delivered and installed on 21st July. Use of MP3 Players technology has proved to be very instrumental discovery for the Mudzi Wathu Community Radio station as it enabled the station bypass the contaminated STLs and still broadcast to listeners. Over MK60,000 ($428) was raised from advertisements during the period the station used the technology. This has made the station realize that it can cover an event with a laptop right in the field, load some of the recorded data on flush disks or MP3 Players and send them to the studios for broadcasting while recording still continues. This can enable listeners follow the event through this phased-in-transfer of materials to studios through use of modern technology.