Voice of Tibet Community Radio
Due to restrictions on individual freedoms, it is both difficult and dangerous for Tibetans to exchange ‘unofficial’ information within its borders or with the outside world (Alme & Vågen 2006). However, as radio signals do not leave any compromising traces, community radio stations, such as Voice of Tibet, open channels of communication for the Tibetan people. According to AMARC (2000), “Community media, in particular, community radio, are essential to developing nations around the world, where they are sometimes the primary means of communicating news and information” (cited in Howley, 2005, p.14). In secluded areas, such as Tibet, where the majority of the population is poor and illiterate, and regulated by State-controlled, mass communication, community radio therefore acts as a vital tool for the survival of local identity and culture (Alme & Vågen 2006).
With the hopes of providing “unbiased news and information” (Alme & Vågen, 2006, p.20) to Tibetans living both in exile and within the borders of Tibet and China, Voice of Tibet (VOT), an independent community radio station, was founded in 1995 by three Norweigen NGO’s: The Norwegian Human Rights House, The Norwegian Tibet Committee and World View Rights (Alme & Vågen, 2006). Unable to operate inside China or the Tibetan region, VOT has its main editorial office in Dharamsala, India, with broadcasts being produced by journalists in several different locations (VOT 2011). During its implementation in 1996, VOT ran 15 minute broadcasts five days a week from a relay site in the Seychelles. However, Chinese authorities soon began jamming the site with threats to the local relay station. VOT has since changed to undisclosed broadcast sites in order to hinder China’s jamming operations. Furthermore, VOT has increased its airtime to 30 minute programs, and currently broadcasts five times a day, seven days a week. (Alme & Vågen, 2006) These short-wave radio broadcasts are transmitted to Tibet, China, India, Bhutan and Nepal “in each of the three main Tibetan dialects, as well as, in Mandarin Chinese” (VOT, 2011, About Us). Each program consists of daily news and a feature story which focuses on:
news and events related to activities on Tibet through the world; news on the situation from Tibetan exile communities and from inside Tibet; developments of Tibetan issues taking place in the international arena; news on democracy movements in China; education and information on human rights; features on Tibetan culture, music and folk tales, reports and information on both traditional medicine and modern health care; and information and reports on environmental issues (Alme & Vågen, 2006, pp.17-18
Watch the VOT documentary here
Alme, O. & Vågen, M. (2006). Silenced: China’s Great Wall of Censorship. Stockholm: Amaryllis Media.
Howley, K. (2005). Community Media: People, Places and Communication Technologies.
Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Voice of Tibet (VOT). (2011). About Us. Online at: http://www.vot.org/?page_id=10