Let the airwaves be free!

I am a believer that technology, when applied effectively, can be a boost to the development pace of Maldives. However, technology isn't always put to its best use in the country. For example, one of the things that the government has maintained through the years is a strict constrictive policy on broadcasting. They are proud to claim that the (government operated) Voice of Maldives is the sole radio station in the Maldives meanwhile ignoring the fact that they've denied anyone else from doing the same and thus letting the government operation reign the airwaves all this while. (This misdirection is similar to the headlines that feature on the telly and radio news about Maldivian contingents "winning" the third place in sports competitions abroad - the unspoken word here being that the competition was only participated by three countries!)

Anyway, the purpose of this control over TV/Radio broadcasts undoubtedly lies not far from the fact that they are an effective medium to educate and inform the masses. Conservative and authoritative governments often resort to imprisoning the airwaves and monitor the airwaves for anyone breaking this sacred law. The Radio Monitoring Station in Male' polices the airwaves for disruptive use of radio transmitters as well as keeping a lookout for those who dare raid the airwaves with their own content.

I agree that some degree of control over the radio spectrum is necessary and is advised. All governments do have laws that govern the use of the airwaves - primarily to let the spectrum be managed effectively so as to be of use to as many people as possible. It lets radio stations broadcast without fear of being trumped by other nearby radio stations. It lets radio stations broadcast without much interference from industrial and home use devices. Sadly, this doesn't seem to be the case in the Maldives. The sole radio operator is the government using up only a single slice of the radio spectrum leaving the rest unused. Therefore, a policy to restrict other broadcasters could not be for any other purpose than laying a grip on what is broadcasted!

The content currently on the radio is also something I deem questionable. This (government) station has been bombarding the airwaves with their line of thinking, with the limited content they deem worthy. This operation also allows for the intentional (or unintentional) spread of a single propaganda that has gripped the minds of its listeners. What the station deems unworthy or unsuitable for airtime never gets heard by the populace. Additionally, anyone who listens to radio knows that it has been dominated by more or less the same old bunch of people - I know I've heard the same voices for the last 15 years or so that I can recall! The typical content they broadcast throughout the day has been Dhivehi and Hindi songs. News feature on the hour, dictating the government news and activities. English music is scattered sparsely into the day with an additional English-only hour at sunset. Educational programs have typically been far fewer from the many "argument" heavy drama's broadcasted. All this content of course has a sizeable following - after all this is coming from the sole local station in operation and has been the only source of news about the country. Some people even like the content - after all what other choice is there? what alternative have they heard?

It might be high time that the restrictions on broadcasting be relaxed. It might be high time that the masses have access to alternate view points. It might be the time to unleash a radio spectrum full of diverse programming and content. Let it be full of music varying from Dhivehi, Hindi, English, from pop, classical, trance and even industrial! Let people have access to educational content with programs on everything from language learning to electronics! Let it be broadcasting news relevant to people and society!

Are these mere ideals? Does anyone agree with these opinions?


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