Namibia: Karas Radio to Hit Airwaves

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The latest licensed community radio station, Karas 102.3 FM, will go on air in Keetmanshoop by the end of the month, reported station manager, Anwar Thomas. According to the Namibian Communications Commission, the station was granted its broadcasting licence on July 7.

After its launch on May 31, the station underwent a seven-day trial broadcasting period and again a three-day trial period to market the station, in the same month. "Over the three-day trial period, we have received as many as 50 calls," said Thomas, adding that the station at this time would cover a 50-km radius, with the station frequency also spilling into adjacent Tses, Berseba and Karasburg.

He said the station would soon appoint a programming committee to draw up a broadcasting schedule, adding that due to the station's nature, a large proportion of airtime would involve community participation, which would include open forum days every three months.

"We would have space for public notices and requests from the public, and cater for special groups such as school children and the elderly and provide a platform for non-governmental organisations" Thomas said.

With the assistance of Cape Town-based community radio station, Bush Radio, 21 volunteers have been trained, of whom five are still actively volunteering at the station. A further 18 volunteers will be sent to Bush Radio for training with the help of the Friederich Ebert Foundation (FES), "to make Karas Radio a model radio station", said Thomas. "We will also look at training in marketing and sales, because that would be the life-blood of the station to ensure sustainability of the project," said Thomas.

MTC has sponsored the radio station's launch, but Thomas said the station has so far no major donors, emphasising that support from local businesses would be vital to keep the station on air. The business plan of the station projects that its broadcast range extends over the entire Karas region within a number of years and that it becomes "donor-independent".

It envisages greater collaboration in the greater Karas and northern Cape twinning initiative, wooing investment from the northern Cape regions to eventually invest in a bigger broadcast signal. Although the station would in all likelihood broadcast predominantly in Nama - "because that is the character of the South" - Thomas said other languages would also be accommodated.

The station has its office in Keetmanshoop's Tseiblaagte.Salmaans Jacobs is the chairperson of the station's seven-member board.

New Era (Windhoek) 11 August 2008