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Kate Coyer <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 3 Jul 2005 13:02:53 -0700
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ARGENTINA: First-Ever Permit for Indigenous Community Radio
By Marcela Valente

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Copyright © 2005 IPS-Inter Press Service. All rights reserved.

BUENOS AIRES - The first operating licence ever granted by the
Argentine government to an indigenous community radio station is
being hailed as a major step forward in giving a voice to this sector
of the population, while posing formidable challenges.
http://ipsnews.net/new_nota.asp?idnews=28876

  The FM radio station, which has been operating without a licence for
six years and has yet to be given a name, is run by the Mapuche
Indian community of Linares, made up of around 700 members and
located in the municipality of Aucapán, in the southern province of
Neuquén.

  According to the 2001 census, close to four percent of Argentina's
population of 37 million are indigenous people, who belong to various
ethnic groups spread throughout the country, but who share many of
the same problems: land ownership struggles, unemployment, poverty,
marginalisation, and the erosion of their ancestral cultural identity.

  "This radio station is very useful in terms of our daily lives, and
will also help to raise greater awareness of our land claims and the
problems we face," said Víctor Altimán, the "lonko" (political
leader) of the Linares community, in a telephone interview from
Neuquén.

  There are two programmes on the air so far, and like the station
itself, they do not yet have names. "We're somewhat disorganised,"
apologised Eugenio Linares, one of the station's technical operators.

  "For the moment, what we want more than anything is for people to
listen to us," he added, which is why all of the broadcasting is in
Spanish, at least for now.

  One of the two shows is a general interest programme that focuses on
the main problems and concerns facing the Mapuche community,
including land ownership conflicts, unemployment, alcoholism and
women's issues.

  The station also plays an important community service role -
especially crucial in the winter, which brings bitterly cold
temperatures. Aucapán is situated in the foothills of the Andes
mountains, and has no electrical power or telephone service, which
makes the radio an invaluable means of communication for the local
residents.

  [...]

  The equipment for the station was donated by the Italian
non-governmental organisation Ricerca e Cooperazione, with the
support of the Italian Foreign Ministry. For its part, the Argentina
Community Radio Forum (FARCO) provided training courses.

  Although Argentine broadcasting regulations prohibit radio station
ownership by non-profit organisations, the Federal Broadcasting
Commission (COMFER), the state agency that issues operating permits,
modified the rules to make the Mapuche initiative possible.

  COMFER plans to grant another eight licences to indigenous
communities in the coming months, to aid in the dissemination of
local aboriginal culture, particularly in border regions, where
people often tune in stations from neighbouring countries.

[...]

  Most of the station's 15 staff members had previous radio experience
on school and community stations, but their knowledge and skills were
limited to producing programmes, not running a whole radio station.

  "The most difficult part is the administration of the station,
getting it up and running and creating visibility," explained Arias.

  The new station has already managed to gain support from local
municipal governments, which will be purchasing air time for official
advertising.

  Because the nearest business is 40 km away, private commercial
advertising is not a viable option for financing the station, which
in any event is run with volunteer labour.

  "COMFER may continue granting radio licences for the Mocovi Indians
in the Chaco region and the Wichi community in Salta (both in
northern Argentina), but without visibility, the survival of these
stations, and of the project as a whole, cannot be guaranteed," Arias
concluded.  (END/2005)



Kate Coyer
Department of Media & Communications
Goldsmiths College
University of London

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