Newfoundland and Labrador
Friday, 15 February 2013, 04:32 PM
By: Rebecka Berntsson and Melis Kip, based on an interview with Fred Campbell
The project “All the Voices” has been carried out by Ryakuga Grassroots Communications in Newfoundland and Labrador for over two decades. Although Ryakuga is not a First Nations organization, staff work closely with First Nation communities, including the Flat Bay Band council.
One of the project’s co-founders, Fred Campbell, describes “All the Voices” as a form of participatory community media. It includes radio, television, new ICTs, and other sources of information sharing. The community radio has multiple goals and components, such as bringing the community together to share stories, creating an interactive dialogue as opposed to a one-way flow of information, and celebrating the culture in a public place.
The project is used not just for local communication within communities. Many radio listeners are community members that moved to other countries or other parts of Canada who want to connect with their home community. Facebook and Skype have also become important communication tools. The federal government previously funded the project (with technological support from a university), but after recent shifts in policy, funding was dramatically cut. This forced the project leaders and community members to seek new solutions. As a result, some radio stations are entirely funded by community members.
“All the Voices” strives to establish long-term, sustainable projects. Although it aims at a high ethical standard and prefers not to accept financial support from private companies, this is increasingly difficult in times of scarce resources. For example, in the 1990s the project received funding and support from the Newfoundland Telephone Company, but when Bell Aliant took over that ended.
In the 1990s, “All the Voices” focused on community television projects, combined with online discussion boards, email, and websites. The project team members actually webcast their content (using a dial-up connection) before they began broadcasting it. Eight years ago, Ryakuga produced a DVD for a community-owned wireless broadband network. The network provided connectivity access to isolated communities (none of which could access roads) on the southwest coast of Newfoundland. One recent example of a successful project carried out by “All the Voices” took place in the town of Wabana on Bell Island. The project started in March 2011 and the goal was to educate community members about radio hosting, so that they would eventually be able to broadcast their own radio shows. The community was in trouble after a local mine shut down, and so set up workshops to learn the skills required and obtain the equipment needed.
At present, there is a variety of connectivity access available in the region of Newfoundland that Ryakuga works in. There is still a lack of access to high-speed, reliable connectivity infrastructure. While connectivity access is usually stronger in schools, many rural communities rely on satellite connections that Fred describes as unreliable. Some areas – such as one community one hour outside of St John’s – are still on dial-up.