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2015-01_dc

D+C Vol.42.2015:1 19 Bolivia community, and people like Rosa Jalja are real au- thorities. Antennas are almost everywhere – there are over 300 community radio stations in Bolivia. “Aymara and Quechua are oral cultures,” Rosa explains. “We tell each other stories, we spread the word. That is how we learn. And that is why radio is our medium.” The radio makers think community stations are needed to democratise the word in or- der to democratise society. Rosa Jalja agrees. From the start, her aim was to encourage Aymara women to get active and liberate themselves. It all began with mining radio The origins of Bolivia’s community radio stations date back to the late 1940s and the mines of the Al- tiplano. In 1949, Radio Catavi, a mine radio station in the Potosí area, was the first trade union broad- caster to go on air. The mineworkers wanted their own radio station because the traditional media in the city rarely or never carried reports about them. They used radio as a weapon in their fight for inde- pendence from the authoritarian government of that era and to exchange information with miners elsewhere and to organise union resistance. In the next 15 years, many followed their ex­ ample, buying equipment, acquiring the necessary skills and beginning to broadcast. Mineworkers and other local families paid a small amount each month to finance the station’s operation. The purpose of the radio stations changed with political situations. When times were quiet, they were the voice of their community – providing information about village festivals, carrying communications from local politicians and acting as a post office for mine- workers: thanks to radio, scattered families could keep in touch. But the mine radio stations’ greatest moments came in times of crisis. Then, they became the only reliable source of information – independent of the national government. In the 1980s, when most of Bolivia’s mines were closed, their radio stations also disappeared. Once numbering 26, only five are in operation today. Freddy Calle is among those who started his radio career at a mine station. He worked for one of the big- gest, Radio Huanuni, even before he left school. And he stayed there for 14 years – as a reporter, a presenter and later as head of the news department. Thirty years on, Freddy Calle is a lecturer in radio studies at the public university in Cochabamba. On top of teaching, he is currently fulfilling a life-long dream: in just a few weeks’ time, he will launch his own radio station. The studio is still be- ing equipped and the schedule is being fine-tuned. But the most important step has already been taken: he has a frequency – a broadcast licence for the sta- tion. “It was an exhausting process, but one that wouldn’t have been possible for small stations like ours without the new Telecommunications Act,” Calle says. The Act was pushed through by the Morales government in 2011. Previously, more than 90 % of media enterprises were in private hands. Thanks to the new legislation, the landscape will gradually be transformed: 33 % of broadcasting licences will be held by the government and the remainder assigned to the commercial sector (33 %), social community radio stations (17%) and stations serving the indig- enous population, farmers or Afro-Bolivian commu- nities (17%). Evo Morales’ leftist MAS party speaks of “the end of large-scale ownership of the media”. Critics accuse Morales of launching an assault on press freedom. They are against the redistribu- tion of broadcasting licences. Moreover, they criti- cise the regulatory authority – ATT – that the gov- ernment established to supervise frequencies. They expect broadcasters to try to please the government. Freddy Calle disagrees: “Small community media now have a chance of finding their place in the Bolivian media landscape. In the past, freedom of expression was a privilege of the well-to-do, who bought media to act as their mouthpiece.” It took Calle over two years to get his frequency. To qualify for a licence, he needed the endorsement of more than 20 social organisations, including associations of retired mineworkers, domestic workers and even sex workers. The law requires that community radio stations should have the support of – and give a voice to – as many civil-society organisations as possible. New radio stations ­ for indigenous villages The government has provided massive support for rural radio since 2006, especially in indigenous vil- lages. The communications ministry has set up 40 “radios de pueblos originarios” – radio stations of indigenous villages – across the country. Another 50 are planned. The government provides equip- ment (a mixing console, a computer, table, chairs and a microphone), a small monthly salary for one staff member, and the local municipality makes of- fice space available. That is the deal. The setting obviously makes genuine independ- ence difficult. Moreover, the radio stations get their Linda Vierecke is a development worker with GIZ. She specialises in media affairs and lives in Cochabamba: [email protected] “The government has provided massive support for rural radio since 2006.”

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