The FCC is extending its disaster data collection to additional counties in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina for Hurricane Dorian.
The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission had announced the activation of the Disaster Information Reporting System in response to Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 2. DIRS is a voluntary, web-based system that communications providers, including wireless, wireline, broadcast, cable and voice over internet protocol providers, can use to report communications infrastructure status and situational awareness information during times of crisis.
The FCC requests that communications providers that provide service to any areas listed below expeditiously submit and update information through DIRS regarding, inter alia, the status of their communications equipment, restoration efforts, and power (i.e., whether they are using commercial power or back-up power).
Communications providers can accomplish this by accessing DIRS at https://www.fcc.gov/nors/disaster/. Providers that have not previously done so will be asked to first provide contact information and obtain a user ID when they access DIRS. There is a link on the login page that will allow them to obtain a user ID and password. If a user does not remember his/her password, he/she should use the forgotten password link on the login page.
Communications providers are reminded that for providers that participate in DIRS, the separate Network Outage Reporting System obligations are suspended for the duration of the DIRS activation with respect to outages in the counties/municipalities where DIRS has been activated. Reports are requested beginning at 10 a.m. on Sept. 5, and every day after that by 10 a.m. until DIRS is deactivated.
Communications providers that serve an area listed below and that have already provided contact information in DIRS will be sent an email requesting that they provide the above-referenced status information through DIRS. For any communications providers that have not already logged onto DIRS to input their contact information, the Commission encourages them to do so as soon as possible.
Counties of Interest for This Activation Include:
Florida: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Desoto, Duval, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Union and Volusia.
Georgia: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Coffee, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Montgomery, Pierce, Richmond, Screven, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Ware, Wayne and Wheeler.
South Carolina: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg.
North Carolina: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.
If your station has any hurricane-related news or pictures send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Synergy Mini is said to be a full-featured digital broadcasting center.
Available from Russian firm Tract and German company Digispot System GmbH, the unit provides a comprehensive set of integrated tools that lets station staff produce and broadcast live and automated radio programs.
Able to also be used as a rebroadcasting device, the mixer handles parallel microphone recording and works with both analog and digital signals from satellite receivers or internet streams.
The companies say additional features, such as ease-of-use, optimal functionality and a reasonable price, make it versatile and suitable for FM radio, internet radio, podcasts, outside broadcasting tasks, corporate radio and educational purposes.
Synergy Mini includes AoIP functionality with a driver called ,,Foxwire” and the free automation software system, Digispot Synergy. The result is a “complete solution” able to manage different tasks.
The FM-starter studio package includes a suite of software and hardware tools designed to work together with the mixer. The package includes a multifunctional touch display with onscreen level metering, three microphones with windshields; three microphone stands; three pairs of headphones; a pair of active loudspeakers; and a mic live indicator and a fully integrated playout system. This solution, add the firms, is appropriate for both novice and experienced staff and lets operators create a valuable radio station.
IBC Stand: 8.D14
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LONDON — The Spectrum Radio Network has completed a move to new studios in the center of the United Kingdom’s capital city.John Ogden is network director for Spectrum Radio. All photos: Rebecca Turpin/Orange Media Co.
Launched in 1990 as a multiethnic radio station broadcasting to London on 558AM, Spectrum has recently relocated as part of a plan to transform its business. “We now see ourselves as a facilities provider to anyone who wants to broadcast to London, the U.K. or any other territories” says its network director, John Ogden.
“We’re all broadcasters ourselves here, so we know what stations want — that’s economies of scale and a clear path to getting on air. It means you don’t have to worry about sourcing studios, internet connectivity or disaster recovery.”Radio Baikal studio at Spectrum includes the Axel Oxygen 3000 console.
Ogden explains the need for the move from its former location in Battersea, a southwest London suburb, to the new location on the South Bank, close to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern art gallery. “Being in central London now means we are more attractive to staff, clients and advertisers. We were becoming restricted in how we could expand — we needed to take our technology to the next level. The move gives us much more flexibility to create something that really ticks all the boxes.”
Spectrum’s seven studios are currently home to 12 stations, including U.K. services Fix Radio, which targets tradespeople and those working in the construction sector in London and Manchester, and Love Sport Radio, alongside Middle Eastern broadcasters and the Russian pop station, Radio Baikal. Spectrum also has its own channel on the Switchdigital London 2 DAB digital radio multiplex, carrying a range of global broadcasters. The network’s staff include Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese and Spanish speakers.Paul Miller is head of broadcast operations at Spectrum Radio Network.
Moving these services to a new home meant the network needed a clear map of what was required. Security was a critical consideration, says Ogden: “I needed to be able to say to clients that we have gold-standard connectivity. We had to have a series of fail-over systems in place to keep stations on air and give peace of mind that nothing is going to compromise their broadcast.”
Ogden praises the network Head of Broadcast Operations Paul Miller, for transforming the facility into what he calls a “world hub.”
“What Paul’s created with this architecture is something that just works.” This included overcoming some unusual challenges — for Middle Eastern stations broadcast in the U.K., Miller had to devise a way of including the Azan call to prayer at the correct time for listeners in London. The answer was unique software, which looks at the phases of the moon to calculate the daily prayer times.Graham Mack of Fix Radio broadcasts from Spectrum Radio’s studios.
It then automatically fades the broadcast at the Middle Eastern timings, covering it with other content, and inserts the Azan at the correct times for London. Ogden says: “it’s a highly sensitive maneuver for such an important part of the programming.”
The new studios feature a range of equipment covering different client requirements. From Axia, this includes iQ mixers, Pathfinder software, and xNode IP audio interfaces. Sonifex products include S2 mixers, RB-DA6 distribution amplifiers, plus silence detectors and profanity delay units. The facility also uses Electro-Voice RE20 microphones and Broadcast Bionics PhoneBOX software. One studio features a custom system installed by the Italian broadcast company Axel Technology, including its Oxygen 3000 mixer.Studios at Spectrum Radio Network feature the Sonifex S2 mixer.
Spectrum also uses the ISDN replacement service ipDTL for simple, low-cost remote broadcasts. Miller reports one client station, Love Sport Radio, used the IP streaming service for recent broadcasts from Madrid: “The presenter had the ipDTL software on his phone with an IK Multimedia iRig interface — I have to say it was really reliable.”
To support the move, Spectrum rebuilt its spectrumradio.net website, with a new look and logo, and is also branching into the fast-growing podcast world. “Our first new offer as a facilities provider is to make highly professional podcasts,” explains Ogden. “At any one time there’s now over 700,000 podcasts out there — so quality is really important. We can advise on editing and uploading to whichever channels clients prefer.”
As for the future, Ogden says: “our ambition would be to develop more studios — to see more international stations using our facilities for broadcast across London and around the world. And we want to help podcasters and marketing companies with studio hire, outside broadcasts and radio promotion days. We’re really looking forward to the next stage of Spectrum’s development.”
Applications for Renewal of Licenses of Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc., KARK-TV, Little Rock, AR and KFDX-TV, Wichita, TX; Compliance with the CTA, as implemented by Section 73.671, and Section 73.3526(e)(11)(iii)
Application for Renewal of License of Word of God Fellowship, Inc., KQUP, Pullman, WA; Compliance with the CTA, as implemented by Section 73.671, and Section 73.3526(e)(11)(iii)
We can’t fully appreciate the importance of news from home to those who served in World War II. In the Pacific campaigns, G.I.s, sailors and Marines fought bloody island-hopping battles; as each island was cleared, garrison troops and hospitals moved in and carried on their own war against mosquitoes, isolation and boredom. The island fighters were fortunate if dated mail caught up with them before they moved on to the next target. Timely personal-level communications were pretty much absent.Possibly the earliest military station in World War II — this one located in the Panama Canal Zone.
Radio programming from America was available but only on shortwave. And shortwave radios were not generally available. The fortunate few had been issued “Buddy Kits” that included a radio, a small PA system and a record player for discs sent by mail. But for most there was no way to receive short-lived information such as news and sports. They were left with enemy radio propaganda such as Japan’s “Orphan Ann/Annie” (aka one of several Tokyo Roses) and the “Zero Hour” program.
No wonder that the idea of having a local island radio station doing “live from home” was so fiercely supported. Enlightened commanders saw the idea as a terrific morale-builder. The only problem was how to pull it off.
A solution, not uniquely, came from within the ranks. It started with the work of some bored but talented soldiers in the Panama Canal Zone who in 1940 built a couple of 50 W transmitters and put them on the air without authorization, labeling them “PCAN” and “PCAC.”GIs listen to a radio, possibility one of the AFRS broadcasts.
In Alaska, 7,500 miles northwest of Panama City, what started as programming through a loudspeaker system became a bootleg radio operation at Kodiak. Coming on the air in January 1942 and calling itself “KODK,” it delivered a whopping 15 watts to the troops. Sources with hindsight later said that the Armed Forces Radio Service (“AFRS”) was born here, when one of its progenitors visited the Alaska operations and “came up with the idea.”
There were similar stations in Hawaii and the Philippines, including the ill-fated island of Corregidor, where a station called “The Voice of Freedom” was an AM repeater for shortwave broadcasts from the U.S.
As troop buildups began in the South Pacific, joint Allied radio operations were established, notably in New Zealand and Australia. These stations were popular with Americans but they also kindled an appetite for “real radio from the States.”Soldiers in the field listen to a broadcast.
Meanwhile things were happening in Washington. The government’s “Morale Services Division” had been created in 1940, though its mandate hadn’t focused on radio. But as cumbersome as government can be, soldiers’ demands for American radio content eventually reached the right people. Increased priority was given to the recording and distribution of network radio programs by electrical transcription. But that still wasn’t live broadcasting.
The Morale Services Division was renamed the “Special Services Division” (SSD) and tasked with live broadcasting. The broadcasting division of the SSD would become the fabled Armed Forces Radio Service.
AFRS began to place “local/relay stations” among the troops. In the Eastern theaters such stations often used existing facilities, but in the Pacific they had to build from the ground up. To facilitate the effort, AFRS created a “station in a box” package that included a transmitter, long-wire antenna and recording and reproducing equipment. Installation teams boated from island to island to plant these mini-stations. Most of them came alive in 1944 and 1945 and, as the island-hopping campaign moved toward Japan, many were soon abandoned, some after only a few months’ operation.
“Stations in a box” were first unpacked in Noumea, New Guinea; then it was on to New Caledonia where AFRS hatched the first of the “Mosquito Network” stations. As WVUS it was among the first such to be given an FCC license (most of the Pacific’s licensed-station calls would then begin with “WV”).
Guadalcanal was the next priority for AFRS. Space precludes station-by-station descriptions, so I’ll use Guadalcanal as a definitive example. The “studios” were in a wooden shack humorously called “Radio City.” The first antenna was a 60-foot-high long-wire stretched between two palm trees (climbed by the more dexterous of the youthful assembly gang). Somehow the wire was “tuned” to work on 730 kHz. Later the antenna was raised to 90 feet and the frequency to 690 kHz. “AES-Guadalcanal” would be licensed as WVOQ.
The “studio” was equipped with a rudimentary mixing console and a Presto Model “Y” disc recorder that doubled as the program-transcription playback turntable. A good shortwave receiver was critical (a favorite shortwave receiver was the Hammarlund “Super-Pro”). Some stations actually built diversity-receive systems to improve reception.A typical broadcast package: note the simple mixer and a turntable that pulls double-duty — able to cut or play back discs.
A staff usually consisted of five or six soldiers. The station kept an intermittent schedule based around troop down-time and usually went quiet around 10 p.m. local time. The typical broadcast week was 80 to 90 hours; part of that filled by shortwave programs from the states. Forty to 50 hours per week were taken by transcribed network programs shipped by AFRS, and the rest of the flexible schedule was “live and local” — GIs-talking-to-GIs (a precursor of “Good Morning Vietnam!”).
Power for the station came from a shared generator. At night, when the load on the generator often increased, record speed would vary with generator load.
Of course each island station had its own story to tell: soldiers shinnying up palm trees with a wire in their teeth; “studios” usually in tents (sometimes made more soundproof and weather-impervious by the addition of a second tent above the first). Some listeners may have had the “Buddy Kits” or perhaps a radio sent from home … or maybe something home-built by the tech-savvy soldier. The stations were also rebroadcast on hospital and mess-hall PA systems and on ships within reach.
It didn’t take long before each station had 100% listener penetration.
Live stateside programming was usually captured from shortwave stations in California (John Schneider and Dr. Adrian M. Peterson have told their stories in Radio World). There were, however, two problems with this arrangement: 1) Shortwave propagation to the Pacific was generally at its best during the period when American radio networks were silent and 2) the politics behind AFRS and the rules of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) dictated that programming must be shorn of its commercial content. This last was a new task for pre-eminent studios such as Radio Recorders in Hollywood. Such service providers had been recording network shows for delayed West Coast broadcasting. Deleting commercials from these disc-recorded network programs required them to learn “The Three-Turntable Two-Step.”An affiliate of the Mosquito Network
Many of the Pacific island stations were informally part of the “Mosquito Network” or affiliates of the “Jungle Network.” Stations in the Central Pacific (often by and for the Navy) were part of “PON” (The Pacific Ocean Network).Where radio goes, promotion follows — even in the military.
There were probably 50 or more island stations installed, removed and relocated in 1944 and 1945. Their numbers diminished rapidly as the Allies congregated closer to Japan. And as the war wound down and ended, the AFRS stations came together in the Philippines and Japan as the long-lived “Far East Network.”
Chances are that if your father or grandparents served in the Pacific during World War II, he, she or they would have been informed and entertained by these stations.
They brought the front lines just a little closer to home.
Mark Durenberger is a technology consultant with the Minnesota Twins and has six decades of broadcast and satellite experience. Mark began his contributions to Radio World forty years ago. Reach him at email@example.com.
The FCC shouldn’t act like it’s haggling over a new car when it comes to the C-band spectrum, according to NAB’s Vice President of Strategic Planning Patrick McFadden. McFadden wrote a post on NAB’s Policy Blog on how in terms of the amount of C-band spectrum made available for wireless companies, the FCC must look at the facts on what amount is safe for broadcasters to effectively use the spectrum, not negotiate the best possible deal.
In his blog, McFadden notes that satellite operators say that it is possible to make up to 200 MHz available for wireless companies, leaving 300 MHz for radio and television operators to continue using the spectrum without issue. He argues that it would be irresponsible for the FCC to try and debate over that number (or whatever it may be).
“Rather, the solution is to look at the information the operators have submitted regarding their transition plan and determine how much capacity can be made available without driving the entire America content ecosystem into a ditch,” McFadden wrote.
Read McFadden’s entire blog here.
The post NAB’s McFadden Warns Against Negotiating Available C-Band Spectrum appeared first on Radio World.
Vibenomics has launched a new advertising venture with a former president of NextRadio at the helm.New Vibenomic’s Chief Strategy Officer Paul Brenner at the NAB Show
The cloud-based managed service provider Vibenomics launched what it’s calling the Audio Out-Of-Home Advertising Marketplace. The solution enables businesses and connected cities to build a specific “audio vibe” in an environment — a sports complex or a shopping center for example — to increase sales and enrich a visitor’s experience, the company says.
The solution has been in beta test over the last eight months and has been used by more than 100 national and local advertisers to reach in-market shoppers in locations like water parks and sports complexes. Those locations reported consistently positive results after using the marketplace, the company said. Similar results were achieved by a roster of national advertisers like Pepsi, Red Bull and General Mills with one chain advertiser seeing a 42% sales lift and $1.9 million incremental revenue.
The new marketplace will be headed by Paul Brenner, a former president of NextRadio/TagStation and senior vice president of Emmis Communications. Brenner will join Vibenomics as chief strategy officer.
The Vibenomics Audio Out-of-Home Ad Marketplace will roll out to 2,000 locations in 45 states. The marketplace is designed to reach more than 150 million consumers while they are shopping, working, traveling and playing.
“In the process, we have created a national footprint that we know will be much sought after by both audio and OOH [out of home] advertisers,” said Brent Oakley, founder and CEO of Vibenomics.
According to Vibenomics, scientific studies show that background music influences how much time is spent in a store, what to buy, how much to spend and can trigger impulse buyers to make additional purchases. According to the company, the Vibenomics ad marketplace gives advertisers an opportunity to reach these audiences with professionally recorded announcements when they have a predisposition to purchase.
The Out of Home Advertising Association of America reported that revenue for the second quarter of 2019 grew 7.7% to nearly $2.7 billion compared to the same period in 2018. That marks the sector’s highest quarterly growth since 2007, the organization said, with growth occurring across all four major OOH channels: billboards, street furniture, transit and place-based. In addition, nearly 70% of the top 100 advertisers in the space increased their spend in the second quarter compared to the same timeframe last year, while 25% more than doubled their OOH investment.
The OOH market is expected to grow from $8 billion to $11.5 billion through 2022, said Scott McCorkle, executive chairman of Vibenomics.
“We are already taking market share from others in this space by offering more efficiency and better results,” McCorkle said. “[Advertisers] want to reach the unique footprint we have created and amplify the voice of their brands in an entirely new way right at the point of sale when it matters most.”
Features within the Vibenomics Audio Out-of-Home Advertising Marketplace include dynamic, in-stream, programmatic digital audio ad insertion; brand-safe placements, immunity to ad fraud; and access to consumers at the point of sale. The solution includes curated playlists, professional voice announcements and management via experience managers at Vibenomics who control music, messaging and advertising for customization of the message in each location.
Founded in 2016 in Indianapolis as Fuzic, the company rebranded to Vibenomics in 2017.
IBC2019 is almost here. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Todor Ivanov is CEO of DEVA Broadcast.
Radio World: How has business been for the company since IBC2019?
Todor Ivanov: Business has been really good. We have been working on multiple projects, developing new products and perfecting old ones, continuing successful business partnerships and establishing promising new contacts.
By far the most significant development is that we are currently in the process of setting up a new, high-tech manufacturing facility, due to be put into operation in 2020. We are really excited because it’s a massive project — the entire facility spans about 4000 square meters. It is also quite demanding, with so many things to consider and bring to fruition, but it’s also quite rewarding. This facility is sure to bring about great new opportunities and contribute toward an even smoother, slicker and more sophisticated manufacturing process, so we can deliver even higher quality solutions to our clients. At the moment, I am giving this project my full attention and pouring all my efforts into ensuring that no detail is overlooked.
Apart from that, sales have soared and our business keeps expanding to new territories and customers. Our commitment to quality is what drives this company and we keep searching for improvement.
We have also had the privilege of being a part of every important industry exhibition. It has been a busy agenda but our local dealers have helped us make the most of every event. We are happy to note that our products are well received regardless of the location, and it is our aim to continue to provide the best to our customers.
Radio World: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?
Ivanov: It is not easy to give a definitive answer here. What matters the most is that radio in general is on the rise, which gives us a great platform to build on. We know that trends vary depending on the local markets so we try to branch out in terms of the products we provide, rather than channeling our efforts into a specific area. Our product catalog is quite rich and that is how we ensure that no matter where a client is, they can get quality merchandise.
Radio World: Stepping away from your particular segment, what is your feeling for the overall health of the radio industry?
Ivanov: It is developing fast and always introducing new technology. It is also quite competitive, which can only add to the motivation of companies who ply their trade in this field. It is very important that radio continues to be a part of people’s lives — it does not feel obsolete or forgotten. On the contrary, it is going strong and this encourages us to keep improving.
Radio World: You’ve been active in the radio monitoring, encoding and processing gear for 22 years. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?
Ivanov: First of all, being in this market for so long is a challenge in itself, but it is definitely one that we relish. Staying in any business and establishing a well-reputed and respected name is not easy. We have faced a series of difficulties over the years but we now know that having a team of experienced and dedicated professionals is the key to making it work. We have a great group of engineers that make cutting-edge technology seem simple — and they are essential to the success of our company.
Radio World: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth?
Ivanov: Taking the time to visit us at booth 8.D79 in hall 8 will definitely be worth it because our product display will once again impress attendees. We will bring to the expo both new releases and gear that has been part of our product range for a long time. The highlight will probably be our upcoming DB4005 model — a third-generation digital FM Radio modulation analyzer and receiver with an MPX input. I don’t want to give you too many details now — let’s leave that for the show. Suffice it to say that we will have the right product for every client, so be sure to drop by!
Radio World: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at IBC2019?
Ivanov: Each year brings great technological innovations in our field and I am certain that every manufacturer will bring to the expo their best and most advanced products, which is great for our industry. DEVA Broadcast will also use this important venue to showcase some superb solutions. You don’t want to miss this!
Radio World: How do your international sales and marketing efforts differ from your U.S. efforts?
Ivanov: It is true that every market has its own peculiarities and being aware of those is an important part of what we do. However, there is a common denominator to our strategy, no matter which part of the world is concerned — we have to be able to recommend the right product and also offer competent and efficient assistance. This, coupled with the high quality equipment we provide, is central to our sales efforts for any part of the world.
Radio World Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?
Ivanov: My guess is I will be quite busy on our own booth displaying our product range, as I want to personally ensure that clients receive all the information and demonstrations they need. However, the IBC always offers a great program and it would be wonderful if I could manage to make time for some of it.
Radio World: You’re a show veteran, how has the show changed since your first visit?
Ivanov: It has evolved spectacularly — it feels like every year the show is on a grander scale. It is superbly organized and plays host to a wealth of events, panels and workshops, a great number of exhibitors and an ever-growing number of attendees. It takes great professionalism and enthusiasm to set up such a show and the result is impressive. It really is one of the biggest exhibitions in our field.
Radio World: What’s your favorite thing about this show?
Ivanov: The fact that it showcases the best technology and makes it available for such a large number of people to evaluate. Another important aspect of it is that it gives us the opportunity to discuss products with our customers and get their feedback. The IBC is a huge event and we are really thrilled to participate.
The post IBC Exhibitor Viewpoint: Todor Ivanov, DEVA Broadcast appeared first on Radio World.
The author is BBC journalist and writer.
LONDON — “I am so happy that my childhood favorite, the young radio presenter, has grown up, and her daughter is now presenting a TV program,” said a fan in a Facebook message to me. He was talking about the rabbit, Warakai, with whom I am now co-presenting the BBC News Pashto children’s bedtime stories TV program, “Lallo Lallo” (Lullaby). Warakai is the daughter of Kharakai, the talking rabbit on the BBC radio who, during the brutal war of the 1990s, stole the hearts of Afghans. If I can say so, I knew her very well.Najiba Laima Kasraee with Warakai, the daughter of celebrity radio personality, Kharakai.
In the early 1990s, when civil war was raging in Afghanistan, I wrote and presented a children’s radio program, which the BBC broadcast from London. Knowing how little content was available for Afghan children, I was trying to give them some moments of sparkle and happiness so they could forget, even if temporarily, the bombs, the hunger, the fear, and perhaps lose themselves in a place where good prevailed over evil, where darkness always gave way to sunshine. This place was the children’s story slot on Wednesdays on BBC Pashto radio, transmitted on medium wave and shortwave in Afghanistan as well as in the “Pashtun belt” in Pakistan’s northwest.As Warakai joins Najiba to co-present Lallo Lallo, the studio audience, Bibbo the Monkey and Lallai the Koala, look thrilled.
Most of the time, my daughter was my first listener. She would give me the most direct and honest feedback you can wish for as a writer. If she liked the story, I would see it in her eyes. I would be telling her about the ant beating the drum, and she would be give me a wide smile and do a drumming gesture. If my narrative confused or disappointed her, her face would immediately show it, she would frown and ask, “Why?” or “Is that it?” That’s when I would know that there was a need for a rewrite.
Watching my daughter’s response, I also could see how children’s imagination works as they picture characters in their heads. One evening I was telling her the story of a village where love was gone and people were angry with each other. No one was giving treats to the fairies in the trees, no one was visiting them, so the fairies decided to pack up and leave the loveless village. My daughter’s immediate reaction was: “Do the fairies have suitcases? What are their dresses made of?” As they tuned in to hear that tale, the audience was informed that the fairies’ dresses were made out of rose petals, their sandals — of green shiny leaves, and that they packed their garments in walnut shells.
To help me tell those tales, I soon summoned Kharakai, my grey rabbit co-presenter. Like me, Kharakai was safe from destruction yet held tight the love for her mountainous native land. Kharakai was fun. She helped me explain some particularly tough and tricky parts of the story, asking questions exactly as a child would do. She often took over the narrative with her own interpretation.
Afghans fell in love with my co-presenter. The amount of letters, gifts, and toys we were receiving for her was unprecedented. And they were not all from children. At the end of my journalist colleague’s very serious interview in Afghanistan with an authoritative interlocutor, the bearded commander took him aside and, suddenly smiling, quietly asked who was behind the voice of the rabbit on the BBC radio show…
BBC World Service started broadcasting in Pashto on Aug. 15, 1981, at the height of the Cold War, in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As information in the country was under strict government control, the BBC’s radio broadcasts in Pashto became staple listening for millions in Afghanistan and Pashtun-speaking areas of Pakistan. Mullahs were asked to adjust the evening prayer times to allow people to tune in to the BBC.
From mid-1990s, the weekly radio soap opera “New Home New Life” in Pashto as well as Dari (produced by the BBC’s international charity BBC World Service Trust — now BBC Media Action) started to raise issues such as awareness of mines (a scourge that claimed thousands of civilian lives), immunization, or refugees’ return to their villages. Aimed at empowering women, it was also a radio drama in its own right, bringing together entire families and, where radio sets had to be shared, neighbors.Najiba Laima Kasraee visits Kabul in 2002.
Afghan children can now watch our stories rather than just listen to them. But in a country where many areas have sporadic access to electricity — and hence to TV and social media — BBC News Pashto radio continues to be an important source of news and features. In Afghanistan — fifth largest market for BBC News outside the United Kingdom — the BBC reaches 59 percent of the population in Pashto, Dari, Uzbek and English.
BBC News Afghan service’s editor, Meena Baktash, says: “We always look for ways to deliver content tailored for a wider range of audiences, be it children, youth, parents, or women in particular — on TV and online but also on radio which continues to be a medium of choice for millions in Afghanistan.”
Afghan children are still surrounded by war. Just like in the 1990s, many are familiar with the sound of attacking gunships. They have seen explosions in a market place or a school. For many, childhood ends at the age of four when they start to work.
As our TV series talks about health, safety, education and morality, Kharakai’s daughter, Warakai adds moments of magic and colors, something every child deserves. Let’s see if her TV fan group can match that of her radio celebrity mother.