Radio Veritas Asia prepares to go it alone

Time for local church to take on radio channel
Radio Veritas Asia prepares to go it alone
RVA listeners at a meeting in Mandalay

February 28, 2012
The program director of Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) has warned that it will soon be time for it to support itself. Father Gabriel Htun Myint has also outlined the considerable challenges that RVA faces on a number of fronts, both in Myanmar and throughout the network as a whole. “It’s time for RVA to take full local ownership as the foreign funding is drying up,” says the priest, who hails from Mandalay archdiocese, during a visit there last month. But he also points out that, “when we talk about local ownership, we don’t just mean in terms of the cost, but also programming, quality and marketing. “Radio Veritas is at the service of the local Church, so the Church should use it fully, via the internet as well as the short wave service.  It should be a vital element whenever the Church's pastoral planning is being discussed." Meanwhile, the operation faces the same difficulties that most Myanmar businesses endure. Fr Htun Myint lists these as “electricity blackouts, slow internet speeds, a need to improve skills at the local level and to pay the staff’s salaries. “Plus, the local Church can’t be asked to adequate RVA offices, which is another challenge.” Father Richard Hla Min Oo, coordinator of the Myanmar language service in RVA, believes that promotion is vital and may well be the key to survival and growth. “Promotion and raising awareness is what’s really needed, as the majority of Catholics don’t even know what RVA is,” he says. “According to the letters we get from listeners, it seems the majority are Buddhists with 85 percent and only 15 percent are Catholics.” He adds his concern that “we can’t rely on donations, as many RVA listeners are needy people. Ultimately, we can only work effectively by establishing our own regular income.” The two managers will perhaps be gratified by the positive support they  are receiving. The Myanmar Church has pledged to give RVA all the money it has made from collections on World Communications Day since 2004. The local RVA office has been actively fundraising for the past three years, seeking and receiving donations from listeners to its Myanmar language service, who come from a number of different faiths. The office also runs a store which sells religious books, statues and CDs, and aims to pay all its staff salaries from the proceeds. Francis Shzau Naw Naw, a volunteer helper at Myitkyina diocese in Kachin State, says, “we’ve been helping for two years by taking collections and putting out donation boxes. But in the long term, we can’t go on with collections alone. We’ll need to find some additional ways of funding.” Father John Paul Mang Sein Yaw, the director of social communication in Kalay diocese, says “we are still struggling to be self supporting but we have plans to start computer classes and internet cafes. “We also seek donations from ethnic Chin listeners to finance our broadcasts in their dialect.” The recent spate of reforms in Myanmar has brought extra good news for RVA. “It means we have an opportunity to add new topics such as human rights and social affairs to our programming, which we will start doing from this month,” says Fr Hla Min Oo.
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