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AMARC Asia-Pacific reacts to the closing down of community radio stations in Japan

Monday 11 April 2016, by SIGNIS

Kathmandu, April 11th, 2016, (AMARC). AMARC Asia-Pacific is gravely concerned to learn that Radio FMYY of Kobe, Japan – a community radio station that has played pioneering role in promoting disaster risk reduction – has been forced to close down due to prohibitory provisions in the community radio regulation of Japan.

The regulation, following an amendment in 2011, imposes a highly restrictive condition on community radios, according to which a station cannot stop broadcasting even for a short time. In order to comply, community radios are required to make large investments on backup equipment and infrastructure, and remain unsympathetic to difficulties faced by staff members and volunteers. Stations considered to be in violation are dealt with severely.

On March 31, 2016, FMYY returned its broadcasting license back to Ministry of Internal Affairs and Telecommunication of the Government of Japan due to its inability to cope with this severely restrictive regulation. Several other radio stations including those serving tsunami prone areas have met with similar fate.

One of major roles of community radios in Japan is to respond to natural and human-caused disasters. Despite strong demand from community members for community radios, especially during reconstruction and rehabilitation phases of recovery, the prohibitive community radio regulation has posed serious challenge to survival of community broadcasting in Japan.

While community-owned radios such as FMYY are forced off-air, there is a growing trend in Japan for local governments to run radio stations through public-private venture companies. Even though such stations are called community radios, they are neither community owned nor can they be expected to defend people’s communication rights.

Junichi Hibino, Director of FMYY and Treasurer of AMARC Asia-Pacific board and other community radio stakeholders in Japan have resolved to continue their struggle for achieving community radio friendly regulations. “We have embarked on a journey to bring community broadcasting back to citizen’s society. By returning FMYY’s broadcasting license, a serious first blow has been delivered,” Mr. Hibino said.

Commenting on the situation, Ramnath Bhat, Acting President of AMARC Asia-Pacific has called upon the global fraternity of community radios to raise their voices against the unfair conditions being forced upon community radios in Japan. “AMARC members from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond join hands with our members in Japan in their struggle to revive community broadcasting in Japan,” he said.

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