February 12, 2015

Satellite Digital Radio Broadcast Initiative

Content Development Group Report – Nepal &India
Remote areas around the world could potentially be connected to the rest of the world if a pilot programme of the UNDP using spare satellite channels provided by Worldspace, a for-profit global satellite digital radio broadcaster, through EqualAccess, a not-for-profit US organization, is successful. The UNDP will provide programming with a development focus to be uplinked and broadcast by Worldspace via satellite. Although the pilot project envisages only radio programmes, which can be heard on digital receivers to be distributed to communities by UNDP, the channel could potentially be used for data and multimedia applications, too. Using solar panel-powered equipment even remote villages without electricity or telephone lines could thus be ‘connected’.

Since the focus of the pilot broadcasts is on HIV/AIDS, Panos South Asia was contracted by the South and South West Asia office of the UNDP in New Delhi, which is testing the technology in India and Nepal, to develop content for the programmes to be broadcast as a part of this project. Panos South Asia’s role in the pre-pilot project began in October 2000 even before a formal contract was signed. The project involves many stakeholders – people living with HIV/AIDS, organizations and specialists working on HIV/AIDS issues, community-based organizations, people involved with radio (producers, scriptwriters, artistes). PSA brought partners together in 2 stakeholders meetings, one in Kathmandu, on November 27, 2000, and one in Delhi, on March 12, 2001 to discuss the project and to explain the objectives.

In April 2001, PSA assisted the Centre For Advocacy & Research (CFAR, India) to conduct the baseline survey, which consisted of visiting the pilot areas in Nepal (Chitwan, Makwanpur, and Kabhre) to gain feedback from the communities who were to be involved. The baseline survey was presented to PSA’s Content Design Group Meeting, held in Kathmandu in May (23 – 25) with partners drawn from a wide cross section of those working on HIV/AIDS issues in Nepal. The broad format and content was developed and agreed upon during this workshop. A core group comprising a radio producer, a scriptwriter, two specialists and two organization representatives formed to work with PSA went through a series of discussion sessions and story ideas with the scriptwriter before finalizing the scripts for the first and tenth programmes. By August these were recorded and pre-tested in the field by the community group (selected by UNDP) responsible for eventually coordinating group listening in the communities. Following the pre-tests, the scripts were revised on the basis of the feedback and re-recorded and converted to digital format suitable for uplinking and satellite broadcast.

The final report for the Nepal portion of the project was submitted to the UNDP in October 2001. The report includes a full storyboard for the 144 episodes containing the objectives of the episodes and an accompanying storyline, a CD containing the two episodes (first and tenth), translations of the final scripts, workshop reports etc.

The programme development and production activities for India began in December 2001. A two-day Content Development Group workshop was conducted to determine the format and programme content. The task is challenging since UNDP wishes to target very rural, marginalized communities, but is at the same time committed to the use of Hindi as the broadcast language. Community groups participating in the workshop have stressed that for many among the intended audience, Hindi is an alien language. They have also highlighted that problems in group-listening within such communities – both in terms of the sexes as well as age group – are going to have a bearing on the success of such a programme.

The development of scripts (two targeting adults and one for adolescents) under the guidance of a small core group is nearly completed. By May, all scripts had undergone at least six revisions each. Unlike in Nepal where a radio drama will be serialized, in India the scriptwriter has chosen to adopt stand-alone episodes for each broadcast. Pre-testing of these will be undertaken in a few communities by CBOs selected by UNDP and their comments incorporated in the final pre-pilot recordings.

As a result of detailed discussions and deliberations regarding this project at two successive Regional Advisory Council meetings (May 2001 and January 2002) Panos has disengaged from the pilot phase of the project.

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