Monday, March 11, 2013

Radio Bell Island Official Launch

Kelly Russell 

In 2011, a group of like minded Bell Islanders embraced a Community Development Project offered by The Rural Secretariat of the Provincial Government. On March 14, 2011, Radio Bell Island went on the air for a one week special event broadcast. The results were truly incredible to behold. The Community came alive with students working alongside adults to create unique locally produced programming and the entire town tuned in to listen to their friends and neighbours tell stories, read the news, play quiz shows, perform music and interview seniors and the local law enforcement. A sense of community pride and connectedness emerged. As one elderly resident said appreciatively during a phone in program, “I haven’t had this many Bell Islanders in my kitchen in 40 years”.

A Committee was struck and applications were made to Industry Canada and the CRTC. Radio Bell Island was incorporated and a second special event broadcast was undertaken in March 2012. A fundraising campaign during this event netted over $11,000 in support locally which, along with a $15,000 grant from The Dept of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, enabled the creation of what you see here today.  CJBI 93.9 FM began broadcasting as a permanent station on Jan. 28, 2013.

So, what is to be gained by a community such as Bell Island spending all that money and effort on a radio station? Here is my list of what the teachers here at St. Michael’s School call “outcomes”.

-       Youth Engagement:  Probably first and foremost is the capacity this project has to involve the youth of Bell Island in a constructive and beneficial activity in their community. It is a priority of RBI to incorporate young people into the daily operation of this station.
-       Local Businesses: They can now reach residents directly, creating better awareness of what services & products are available.
-       Benefits to the Tourism Industry: Travelers coming to Bell Island will be able to listen in their cars and get the latest updates on entertainment, cultural events, tours and other essential information.  The potential to positively enhance tourism is huge.
-       Cultural Development: Bell Island has always been well known for its wealth of musical talent. RBI will serve as a training ground for musicians, actors, technicians and perhaps future broadcasters in the provincial and national field.
-       Cultural Preservation: RBI will embrace the past and carry it forward into the future through local storytelling and on air plays, comedy and music. Local history will be revisited and local culture celebrated.
-       Education: The station will play a major role in developing communication skills among young people. Courses can be developed that challenge students to use their imaginations and come up with unique ways to bridge gaps in the past and future generations of the community. I might mention here that already two former students have decided on broadcasting and broadcast technology as their career goals at MUN based on their RBI experience.
-       Emergency Services: The Town will use the radio as an emergency broadcast system to bring people up to date with major problems as they occur on the island. During Radio Week 2012, the town experienced a critical water shortage and Council was able to update residents on when and where shut-offs and repairs would occur.
-       Social Services: Real time communication can occur between disenfranchised groups such as people with disabilities and senior who at times can feel very left out.
-       Community Spirit: The lifeblood of a community is its people and their sense of pride is key to the success of any society. Community radio has the potential to significantly enhance this Pride of Place.
-       Community Improvement: Even something as simple as a “community cleanup campaign” can be enhanced by a radio station, encouraging residents in recycling and anti-littering.
-       Transportation and Ferry: RBI will be an ideal forum for the community to come together to discuss problems such as the Ferry System. Schedule changes, updates, etc will be available to all residents.

-       Network with Other Communities: There are other community radio stations in NL in various stages of development, and RBI can share programming and communicate in real time with these other stations thus bringing together rural NL communities like never before. This was successfully undertaken last year during Network 12, hosted by RBI, when other communities were linked “live” on the air to discuss community issues. Plans for a Network 13 are ongoing.

-       Connecting Bell Islanders Living Away and Connecting Bell Island to the World
RBI can be heard, not just all around Conception Bay but all around the world as well, through internet live streaming.   Many Islanders moved to Cambridge years ago, leaving families and friends behind. Now these people are able to reconnect with “home”.  Last year, live on the air, we linked a Bell Island soldier stationed in Afghanistan with his parents here on Bell Island and his wife in Ontario. This reunion was hosted by a Senior Army Cadet and Level 3 student at this school.

So as you can see, Community Radio really can bring about positive change in a community. Now if we could only improve the transportation system. Perhaps Radio Bell Island can help bring about that change as well. Although, I have to say, now that we have Radio Bell Island, somehow the Tickle doesn’t seem quite as wide.

1.   Training and experience for youth & adults in radio broadcasting
2.   Showcasing of local talent (music, storytelling, knowledge of key issues of the day, etc.)
3.   Preservation of Bell Island's rich history and culture
4.   Creators and contributors of media (alternative and local media) at a time when we are bombarded a one-sided mainstream corporate-controlled media
5.   Entertainment (music, stories, special guests, etc.)
6.   Inform (local issues, problems, conditions as well as non-local)
7.   Educate (a medium for people to learn about a wide range of issues, topics, etc.)
8.   Interactive communication medium (residents and all manner of community organizations can talk to each other)
9.   An Economic Development Tool (both aiding and abetting local economic development and attracting outside business and investment)
10.  A Community Development (CD) Tool to help build and invigorate a sense of responsibility and civic pride in our community.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Intolerance – society’s urgent challenge: by Bill Pardy

The world appears full of intolerance.  Civility appears a thing of the past, a little used or understood concept in a world of wants and consumerism.
This intolerance is evident in the struggles and wars that have grown pervasive. In the developed world, it is most apparent in the disparaging commentary, the belligerent and bigoted responses and the use of malicious, hurtful even racist language.

In Canada this was prevalent in the media coverage pertaining to the recent hunger strike by Attawapiskat’s Chief Theresa Spence.  It was evident in the response to the protest by Marlene Giersdorf in Prince Edward Island because her employment benefits had been withdrawn.
The commentary and especially the individual related comments gave one pause for thought. The vitriol espoused by most responding to media articles made one wonder if civility is alive at all.
Canada used to be one of the most respected nations in the world for its caring, socially supportive and peaceful nature. Today in the world it is seen in a different light and the Maple Leaf has lost much of its lustre.

Much, but not all, of this can be attributed to the policy direction of the current government.  This is a government with little regard or reverence for the laws that afforded the country such respect.
Canadian’s are no longer peacekeepers, international policy has become provocative and support for the UN, despite its inequities, is non-existent.  Our response to most countries, except Israel, is mostly caustic.

Most importantly, this government sees the Canadian legislation that provided its stability as something to be usurped or dismissed.  They have only their own vengeful rules and laws which are being imposed.

This government mimics the intolerance that encompasses the globe, because they think it is pragmatic and gives them advantage.  They have no vision, much less one of the more enlightened supportive society of former leaders that made Canada a shining light in the world.

The root of the world’s intolerance, and our own, can fundamentally be found in the growing gap between those that have and those without.  It has surpassed tolerable levels in many countries, and as a result, intolerance abounds. 

This intolerance manifests itself in different ways; through religious persecution, political unrest, economic repression or gender subjugation.  The tone appears disparaging on one side while on the other it is focused on anger and rage.

There is always someone to blame, usually those disadvantaged, whether it is the marginalized, impoverished, elderly or youth.  A Japanese cabinet minister attributed all the blame of his country’s woes to the elderly suggesting that they should “just hurry up and die”. 

In many countries now the blame is on the unemployed, especially the young unemployed; the solution is to slash benefits and support, thereby, forcing migration. 

Some suggest, as with the aboriginals in Canada, that everyone must be integrated, which means they should conform.
There appears to be little appreciation for the fact that the world has changed dramatically in the past few decades with growing disparities, which has increased unemployment and resultant marginalization. 

Forgotten are the foundations that facilitated the progress of the developed world encompassed in the concept of caring societies, expansion of opportunity (not just money) and the sharing of the vast resources that still exist in the world.

Respect has been trampled by those in a hurry to have all the money and all the power.  The business and political elites emulate the authoritarianism of those countries least developed; not the democratic basis of those most developed.

People are mere needy clients, but necessary for their vote to win re-election and more power. This power must be sustained at all costs, even if by the manipulation of the rule of law.

How can ordinary people have respect with such an attitude prevalent among those who govern? 
There is hope which is stored in the huge, mostly silent, majority.  They quietly watch and perhaps puzzle at this bizarre behaviour.

Perhaps they are comfortable, maybe afraid, or at present, unable to contemplate their role in changing this mixed up world.

As the disparities within society envelopes more of them and as intolerance expands, one hopes they will be stirred, impassioned and stimulated to action.

It is only then that some balance will be brought back to society and adequate controls placed on politicians and bureaucrats alike.   Then policies and rules can be re-instated to contain financial and business entities who have run amuck, even stealing from those who they are supposed to serve.

Real power always lies with the masses.  What’s required is a quiet revolution led by the grass roots that would remind those who would intimidate, belittle and control where real power lies.

Written by Bill Pardy
February 18, 2013