Radio broadcasting still crucial in Sarawak

By Marilyn Ten, Borneo Post Online
August 1, 2022

Marrill Chunggat

TECHNOLOGICAL advancements over the past decades have given people unprecedented access to information.

A wealth of information and entertainment is easily accessible these days whether you are catching up on news by reading the newspaper, watching the television, scrolling through websites on your mobile phones or computers, or listening to the radio.

Radio broadcasting has imprinted a profound impact on society since its conception in the early 20th century and despite the emergence of digital platforms, it remains one of the most powerful communication tools up to this day.

According to Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) Sarawak Radio Section principal assistant director Marrill Chunggat, radio services in Sarawak continue to play an important role in reaching out to the masses.

“This is especially in the rural areas that have yet to have digital accessibility, but can be reached through receptions of bands, waves or radio frequency transmissions either via shortwave (SW) or frequency modulation (FM),” he told The Borneo Post.

He said there are some areas in Sarawak, Miri, in particular, which still use SW-receiving facilities with transmissions being carried out via RTM Kajang branch transmitter, which is still in operation.

He observed that after digitisation, there are more areas that have gained access to free digital terrestrial television (DTT) such as myFreeview.

“However, the SW band is still needed, especially in the interiors, for the delivery of information and to keep listeners up-to-date about what’s going on.

“Due to Sarawak’s geographical and population factors, the role of radio is still significant in channeling news, messages, requests and announcements of local activities,” he said.

‘Diversity is strength’

Under RTM Sarawak Radio Section, there are six radio stations: RTM Kuching, RTM Sri Aman (SRI AMANfm), RTM Sibu (SIBUfm), RTM Bintulu (BINTULUfm) and RTM Miri (MIRIfm), and RTM Limbang (LIMBANGfm).

Parked under RTM Kuching are five radio services: SARAWAKfm, which broadcasts in Bahasa Melayu Sarawak 24 hours – with the exception of the one-hour Bahasa Melanau broadcast, starting from 2pm every Sunday; REDfm Chinese and REDfm English; WAIfm Iban; and WAIfm Bidayuh, which features three major Bidayuh dialects, namely Bau Jagoi, Bukar Sadong, and Biatah.

SRI AMANfm and SIBUfm broadcast in three languages: Bahasa Malaysia, Iban and Chinese; RTM Bintulu air in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban; MIRIfm in Bahasa Malaysia, Iban, Chinese, Kayan and Kenyah; while LIMBANGfm covers four languages, namely Bahasa Malaysia, Lun Bawang, Bisaya and Iban.

Marrill, standing next to REDfm (English) DJ Azrani Azmi @ DJ Zack at RTM Sarawak Radio studio.

Marrill said the strength of RTM Sarawak could definitely be attributed to the diversity of its multilingual programmes such as Bahasa Melayu Sarawak, Iban, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Bisaya and Lun Bawang, as well as some slots aired in Salako, Melanau and Kedayan languages.

“The use of ethnic languages in the service allows for more effective delivery and at the same time, they reach out to listeners not only in terms of the delivery of information but also entertainment and local culture,” he said.

In compliance with guidelines

Marrill also said the Radio Broadcasting Guidelines had set out certain standard procedures in ensuring that the content and presentations would always be in accordance with standards of high quality and also meet the taste of the listeners.

“The content of the programmes must also be delivered responsibly in ensuring that the radio programme of each station is trusted by all levels of society, while maintaining the image in the delivery of information quickly and authentically.

“These constantly-updated guidelines are what differentiate RTM Radio’s performances to remain relevant in line with technological developments to reach out to more listeners so that every government policy can be delivered, as well as to offer entertainment that covers the preference of all ages, especially in terms of staying relevant to the needs of the target groups,” he said.

WAIfm Bidayuh DJ George Martin Howell

Marrill also pointed out that radio broadcasts had continued to evolve in line with technological development in the digital era to meet the needs of listeners.

“RTM is constantly improving its capabilities not only in terms of equipment, but also the expertise and skills in the implementation of delivery tasks and services.

“Through the ‘RTMKlik’ app, our radio services can be heard online in addition to being accessible via myFreeview.

“The use of facilities such as podcasts has also been developed and so far, (it) offers main services such as NASIONALfm, TRAXXfm, AIfm and MINNALfm before we expand to other services, to suit the preference of our listeners,” he said.

Never stop reaching out

WAIfm Iban DJ Harold Ken Micheal @ Bunyau

While not having the number of listeners tuning in to stations at RTM, Marrill estimated that the number of those following the livestreams of certain events on Facebook was about 50,000 to almost 600,000 viewers.

“For instance, 596,000 viewers tuned in for the ‘Anugerah Carta Sapa Juara 2019 WAIfm Iban’, while another show called ‘Juh Bermukun SARAWAKfm’ had 45,000 viewers.”

He said unlike RTM headquarters in Angkasapuri, Kuala Lumpur and the radio stations in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah neither had the facilities nor expertise that would enable them to obtain the statistics on the number of radio listeners.

“This may be influenced by geographical factors, population distribution, logistics and facilities as well as Internet access.

“However, earlier this year, there was a proposal for collaboration with strategic partners Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to obtain the statistics on the number of listeners,” he said, adding that the proposal was still under discussion.

He said RTM Sarawak would continue to reach out to its radio listeners by striving for faster news delivery, as well as the channelling of information through family news slots with agencies to be disseminated more widely so that they could be heard in every corner of Sarawak, especially in the rural and interior areas.

SARAWAKfm DJ Mohd Azree Haidir

“The loyalty of our listeners is much appreciated through the establishment of radio partners who are not only a source for various activities, but to participate in on-the-ground programmes as well.

“The continuous feedback from the public, including constructive criticisms, shows that radio is always close to the hearts of listeners and remains relevant using conventional and the latest facilities,” said Marrill.

Major catalyst in creative industry

Marrill said radio had continued to play its role during the Covid-19 pandemic, and would continue on post-pandemic.

“Broadcast radio has provided opportunities and space, particularly through the Malaysian Creative Industry Stimulus Package (Prisma) initiative by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, in ensuring that the creative industry players affected by the pandemic are able to continue their work and contributions in the industry with new rates.

“Various programmes are also run through radio programmes that provide space and opportunities to entrepreneurs and traders related to the industry, especially those involving support services such as the audio field.

“For instance, they are given the opportunity to participate in field programmes, radio on location, competitions and so on.”

DJ Azrani Azmi, otherwise known as DJ Zack

Marrill added that programmes and publication slots related to government policies such as government assistance and initiatives to help those who had been affected by the pandemic, were also broadcast.

On RTM Sarawak’s plans to continue reaching out to its radio listeners, Marrill said under the RTM Strategic Plan 2021-2025, this would take into account the setting up of long-term plans, especially on strengthening the management and human capital development; policy framework and governance enhancement including work processes; strengthening broadcasting services and operations; strengthening the quality of content and broadcast channels; and strengthening the promotion, marketing and revenue generation so as to become a major catalyst in the creative industry particularly in creative show content with high quality and high commercial value.

“The use of new platforms, especially social media and its trends, to stay fresh and relevant in turn, would attract more viewers or listeners continuously,” he said.

© Borneo Post Online – August 1, 2022

This material remains © Borneo Post Online Sdn Bhd and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

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