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A street corner of a residential area of Plaistow, East London may seem like an unlikely setting for a radio station, but it has actually played host to Voice of Africa Radio for the past year. The building is understated in itself ‚Äď containing simply a reception/office area, one on air studio and a production studio. Voice of Africa Radio began as an unlicensed station on January the 1st 2000 until April 2003 but always had the aim of becoming legitimate.
Currently broadcast to London via its website at www.voiceofafricaradio.com and is willing to join the Sky Digital platform this year, though the Project Manager Space Clottey is adamant that an increase in the number of listeners and their geographical locations will not change the station‚Äôs programming remit in any way.
The station was launched to act as a true Pan-African voice for the African community, who until that point didn‚Äôt have a service solely for them. The ethos behind the station is very similar to those often lamented Reithian values of the BBC ‚Äď to inspire, educate and inform. Listeners to the station who are expecting to hear wall-to-wall African music would be very disappointed because Voice of Africa Radio has a strong speech commitment, providing phone-in discussion programmes for local residents to discuss issues affecting the African community both within London and internationally. Programmes are broadcast in a range of African languages as well as English, French and Portuguese.
The Voice of Africa Radio studios also play host to visiting local councillors, MPs, and other dignitaries who regularly take part in the discussion programmes, answering questions and discussing both local and international agendas set by listeners. This is one of the reasons that the station has a strict dress code ‚Äď while all staff are volunteers, they are expected to dress smartly at all times. As Space explained, many of the local MPs, Councillors and Pastors etc simply drop in from time to time and so staff are expected to be ready for any eventuality! In fact, such is the station‚Äôs commitment to local governmental issues, that whilst I was there I jokingly asked whether Tony Blair had ever paid a visit ‚Äď Space played me back a message on the station answer phone from Mr Blair‚Äôs office apologising that at that time he wouldn‚Äôt be able to visit but the request had been noted. No wonder the station‚Äôs motto is ‚Äúit always seems impossible until it‚Äôs done‚ÄĚ
Programming on the station does have a strong news-basis with a 3 hour News and Discussion show taking place each Wednesday with a focus on news events within the London area. This also gives the station the opportunity to act as an intermediary with the local police force, carrying interviews with Officers dealing with cases and offering support and contact details to people within the area affected by such crimes and also to gauge the community‚Äôs reaction to issues. A one-hour news programme on Friday evenings and Sunday are more targeted towards the younger generation, dealing with issues affecting them in a positive manner, and again offering support where necessary. The music on the station is left to presenter‚Äôs choice but is mostly reflective of the station‚Äôs African background. Programmes are broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The station also plays what could be described as a ‚Äėdirectory-type‚Äô role within the community with its strong contacts in Africa and can often pass such contact details on to various bodies, including the police, governments and even other media outlets when the need arises.
The operation of Voice of Africa Radio is a collective effort and one of the main contributors is Mr. Space Clottey, studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of East London. Since then has worked with a number of radio stations. The rest of the team comprises of 15 main managers (most of whom come from a radio background) and well over a hundred volunteers, many of whom have joined to receive broadcasting training and work experience to help them move into a full-time career within the radio industry. As part of its social policy it gives work placements to secondary school students all over London.
Financial backing of Voice of Africa Radio comes mainly in the way of sponsorship - as with other community stations. A number of banks and other institutions both in the UK and Africa including the World Bank have expressed an interest in funding programmes and events held by the station, also local churches have on many occasions held special services with the offering going to support the work of the radio station.
Their website: www.voiceofafricaradio.com is truly an award-winning site in the market today. In October 2004, it scooped the prestigious Gathering of the Africa‚Äôs Best (GAB) media award. Also in June 2002 the station was awarded a community service award by Ghana Union London.
The future of Voice of Africa Radio does depend greatly on the support of the Community. In the meantime the team also in the process of launching its own Sky radio channel on the Sky platform. Moreover, they also have plenty enough on their plate with continuing programming and services they provide to the London community ‚Äď no mean feat for any local radio station, but when such a service is provided by a station with the limited resources one really can‚Äôt help but be highly impressed.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 15 November 2009 06:26|