More than 120 years after it was invented, radio continues to change lives. It can stabilise war-torn countries, be a community focal point and help end poverty. A pirate station owner, a radio revolutionary and a broadcast campaigner talk to us about making waves.
“It’s crucial to try and get real information to people.”
“WE BELIEVE RELIABLE information can help stabilise countries,” says Philipp Hochleichter, project manager at Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT), a Berlin-based NGO. “It’s crucial to try and get information to people and make sure what they’re hearing is not propaganda.”
To keep people in Syria informed, MiCT has created PocketFM, a small transmitter that covertly broadcasts a network of independent, moderate opposition radio stations. So far, MiCT has managed to get 10 of their devices – each the size of a shoebox – into Syria.
“We found that the old medium of analogue radio was the simplest way, because everyone has a radio receiver,” says Hochleichter. “And it’s a system where you don’t need any infrastructure that might not work in a confl ict area. Analogue radio is an old, but very robust, medium.”
Once PocketFM is hooked up to a satellite dish and placed – ideally, in an abandoned building – it is autonomous. If detected by authorities, it can’t be traced back to an individual. With the German Foreign Ministry recently extending funding for MiCT for another three years, the NGO will be able to carry on using radio to keep people connected in some of the most dangerous and remote areas.
“I hope regulations on running small radio stations, which date to the 1920s when governments feared radio, are loosened,” says Hochleichter. “There should be a more contemporary approach. Our technology can benefi t so many people and we can have it up and running in just half an hour.”