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.

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