Radio station resumes work from tent studio
PESHAWAR, November 14 2005: Muzaf-farabad radio station which went off the air after the Oct 8 earthquake has resumed regular transmission from a tent studio, the radio station’s director Sardar Ali said here.
“Since Oct 25 we have started 14-hour FM transmissions. As the studios of our radio station were badly affected by the earthquake, we were forced to discontinue transmission,” said Mr Ali, who was a deputy controller at the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation prior to his present assignment.
Four of its studios had developed huge cracks. Some 26 of the 70 employees of the radio station were killed in the calamity, making it harder for it to resume routine transmission.
The radio station is currently airing programmes aimed at boosting the morale of the people. “We transmit programmes that offer a ray of hope to the homeless survivors of the quake,” he said. “We are trying our level best to avoid panic. We want people to resume their normal lives now,” he added.
With the aim of helping quake victims, Mr Ali said, the radio station has established a helpline to act as a bridge between relief organisations and victims.
Since Oct 19, a 2 KW FM transmitter received programmes via satellite which were then relayed within a 45 km radius in Muzaffarabad. For these transmissions, artistes and staff had to be shifted from Muzaffarabad to Islamabad.
On Oct 21, the PCB’s director-general, Tariq Imam, rushed to the station along with a team of engineers to install a transmitter allowing the station to air one-hour and seven-and-a —half-hour transmissions on Oct 23 and Oct 24, respectively.
“Lack of electricity was the main problem. Initially, we ran the transmission through generator, but shortage of diesel hampered the transmission efforts,” Mr Ali said.
Until Oct 8, Muzaffarabad radio station used to air programmes for 16-17 hours. The quake played havoc with the radio station’s infrastructure and rendered two of its AM transmitters ineffective.
Despite being an asthmatic patient, Mr Ali accepted the challenge to proceed to Muzaffarabad and bring life to the radio station there.
Radio has a clear edge over television which shared the same compound with the former and had suffered total destruction, but is yet to resume its transmission.
Mr Ali said that they had received applause from the president and prime minister of the AJK, both of whom had visited the tented radio station.
But very few people had access to TV and most of the people were dependent on radio, because it can be kept in one’s pocket and run through battery cells.
“Due to our perseverance, Muslim Hands, an international NGO has donated 1,000 radio sets to the people, which would enable them to listen to the programmes,” he said and added: “Now we have focused on community broadcasts.”
According to him, they received telephone calls from listeners, which mainly contained their problems. Such calls were then recorded on the register and forwarded to the PM and President Houses in Islamabad.
He said that they had been planning to install AM radio in a few months, but the FM radio would continue to act as a backup. Mr Ali said that the reconstruction of the radio station would take at least two years, but said that the government was planning to install digitalised studios there.
He said the PCB director in Islamabad would bring further improvements in the programmes which were aired from a cabin-like tent.
Mr Ali, a former programme manager of FM Radio in Peshawar, said that radio had an important part to play as far as psychological and infrastructural rehabilitation in the area was concerned. Radio transmission runs from 9am to 11pm.