THE BEGINNINGS OF A NEW DAWN
By Aloysius Laukai
We started talking about establishing a community radio station in Bougainville around 2000 and decided we would call it New Dawn FM to mark our optimism about the future of the Autonomous Province of Bougainville following a terrible civil war that left countless thousands of people dead, injured or internally displaced.
Initially, New Dawn FM broadcasts to the many towns and villages in the Tinputz and Buka Passage area of north Bougainville. The locally owned and managed radio station would not only provide an independent news, information, education and entertainment to listeners, but also be a model for the possible establishment of community radio stations elsewhere.
We believed the project would contribute to establishing a public sphere of community discourse, enabling discussion and giving a voice to a community dispossessed by civil insurrection and seeking to rebuild a democratic society.
The talk continued and reached a lunch table in Sydney, Australia, where our Board member Carolus Ketsimur met his old Papua New Guinea broadcasting buddies Phil Charley OAM and Keith Jackson AM. They sought the assistance of Assoc Prof Martin Hadlow of Queensland University, himself formerly a radio station manager in PNG and a senior UNESCO executive.
Together we developed a concept that saw UNESCO and the German Government provide funds for studio equipment and a transmitter.
After a number of false starts, we finally started testing the station in April 2008. Then, at the end of June, our transmitter was destroyed when strong winds damaged the telescopic mast. We paid for another and a standby transmitter and went on back on air in November 2008.
We are now on air with a transmitter power of 300 watts. Since our establishment we have covered the Bougainville Presidential by-election and also the celebrations of the inauguration of the second Autonomous Bougainville Government. This was done in Arawa in Central Bougainville and we covered it live for listeners in the north.
The Government was very impressed and gave us budget support with initial funding of 50,000 kina, which will be increased later this year. We have so far secured more than ten sponsors for our programs who are paying K500 per program per month and still more are coming forward.
We get about 500 test messages a day for requests and other information from our listeners and this is very encouraging as they participate daily in our shows.