‘The radio saved my life. By listening to doctors being interviewed on the radio, I discovered that I had Covid-19 symptoms and managed to be treated in time and recover’. This is the opening statement in the Asian Review’s report on the role played by the Indian community radio stations, which are often the only means available for millions of people to access information in the most remote rural communities. During the pandemic the usual programmes speaking about agricultural techniques were substituted by explanations of how to put social distancing into effect and how to recognise Covid-19 symptoms. Together with the government authorities, they also helped to coordinate the distribution of food and medicines. This was an enormous job considering that there are only 276 community radio stations in the whole country. The government’s intention was to see an increase to 4000 broadcasters, which is a number equal to the commercial stations, but the main obstacle to this is the cost of equipment, which is very high for a community (starting from INR ₹ 1.9 million, which is more than US $ 25.000), as explained in detail in this article.
President Duterte had promised to make life difficult for the ‘unwelcome’ radio/television group, although later he seemed to have changed track (which we spoke about in one of our recent articles). The multimedia group, which has 16 radio stations and 11,000 employees, hoped to renew its franchise temporarily, but the NTC opposed it. The National Communications Commission (NTC) is the authority that regulates the media sector. Hence, since Tuesday transmission is only continuing on the web and pay television channels, whilst waiting for an extension to the end of June 2022.
In order to increase the number of hospital beds, the Government of Sri Lanka has converted the buildings left by the Voice of America in Iranawila, located on the western coast of the island, 70 km north of the capital Colombo. The VOA, the American international broadcaster, after having relocated their equipment to Kuwait and to Greenville (North Carolina), returned the land back to the Sri Lankan State in 2017. The original intention to develop the site as a tourist resort had been shelved due to protests by local residents. In the interim period before developing the area, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the army commander to use the buildings for Covid-19 patients in March 2020. The new hospital can take in fifty patients and was completed at the beginning of April 2020.
25 years of propaganda
The ex relay station of the Voice of America spans an area of 1.6 km² and includes four large buildings with seven high power transmitters: four 500kW transmitters and three 250 kW transmitters, that currently broadcast programmes of Radio Free Asia. RFA was set up by the American Congress in Washington DC with the aim to transmit news and information to listeners in Asian countries ‘where complete news was not available, accurate or timely’. In 2014, RFA transmitted in 47 languages, including a large number of local dialects, to about 236.6 million listeners all over the world.
After the Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte told the press his intention to stop the renewal of the ABS-CBN TV station’s licence in March 2020, he accepted the apologies of the television network. It is considered being critical of the government after broadcasting a negative speech and not airing his campaign ads.
On February 26th, 2020, answering some journalists questions during an event held by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the President said that he’s going to leave the decision of the renewal entirely to the Congress.
‘We acted properly’
In a statement on February 27th, 2020, ABS-CBN took the opportunity of thanking the President and to explain their version of what had happened: During 2016, a video of Duterte swearing, and some children asking the President if his actions were right.
During a hearing on the franchising’s conformity in the Senate, Carlo Katigbak (CEO of ABS-CBN group) told that he has ‘only respected the laws and the broadcasting regulations for political ads’ and that the TV was unable to air Duterte’s ads due to the limit in broadcasting time, at a value of approximately 7 million Philippine peso (PHP) (approximately US $ 138.000). The TV station immediately gave back 4 million PHP, meanwhile the return of the remaining 2.6 million ($ 51.000) has been delayed by the President himself: Duterte, accepting the apologies, told the TV to give the money to charity.
A group that covers TV and radio (both AM and FM)
ABS-CBN is a multimedia group born in 1967 by the fusion of Alto Broadcasting System (ABS, founded in 1946) and Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN, founded in 1956). The company manages various TV networks such as ABS-CBN, which provides 50 to 60% of the turnover, and ABS-CBN Sports + Action. Radio includes regional stations like Radyo Patrol (medium wave) and My Only Radio, with 16 FM transmitters in the whole country. The activities of this group are manyfold: They include broadcasting of international TV channels and pay TV, a film production company, a record label and a publishing house.
With its 350 meters of height the Lotus Tower is the highest transmission structure in South Asia. The shape is inspired by the lotus flower, which in Sri Lankan culture symbolises purity: a thin, green stem with petals that change color thanks to a play of light. Under construction since 2012, it was opened on 16 September 2019 to ease a cost controversy ($ 104 million); the project was funded largely by the Chinese government within the scope of the Belt and Road project. The platform being 245 meters high, provides visitors with a panoramic view of the capital, Colombo.
Five floors of attractions and two of transmissions
The bud of the lotus flower conceals a seven-story structure: the first two host 35 FM radio stations, 50 TV stations broadcasting on DVB T2 and 20 telecommunication service providers. The other floors contain a museum, supermarkets, a revolving restaurant, banquet- & conference rooms and lastly a 1000-seat auditorium. The sixth floor is reserved for six exclusive suites.
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The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the Asian country’s media regulator, completed the switchover to digital terrestrial in October. In July, tests were carried out on the island of Langawki, in September it was the turn of the central and southern regions, followed by the northern and eastern regions mid-October while in Sabah and Sarawak the transition was completed on the 31st of October 2019.
15 TV and 6 Radio channels
On the myFreview Digital TV platform, 15 TV and six radio channels of Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), Media Prima, TV AlHijrah and Bernama News Channel (BNC) are available. Malaysia is the third Asian country to have completed the transition to digital TV, after Singapore and Brunei.