As with everyone on the planet, COVID-19 has our full attention. Staying home, flattening the curve, saving lives, navigating the devastating economic consequences … We are all in this together.
If you are like me, your radio has been on this morning, bringing you the latest information, sharing reliable advice and relevant stories, keeping us connected at a time of social distancing. Hopefully, your radio station has not been spreading myths and disinformation, but serving instead to expose and refute fake COVID-19 advice and news.
As true as this is for you and me, it is even more true for hundreds of millions of Africans who have few sources of reliable information. Sure, many have phones with WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, or Telegram … But these are “unmediated” (or, mediated by algorithms) information sources, and can spread false and dangerous ideas at lightning speed, as we have all seen. Radio broadcasts that are vetted, fact-checked, produced, and aired by real live journalists in the language of their listeners, are all the more important in this context.
Farm Radio International, with its trusted connections and regular contact with 1,000 radio stations across 41 countries in Africa serving 250 million listeners, is profoundly aware of the critical importance of clear, accurate, informative broadcasts about COVID-19. We also recognize the importance of broadcasters staying healthy! To this end, we are:
- Actively distributing information and resources, including scripts and backgrounders, about how to plan and produce effective COVID-19 radio programming;
- Creating or activating spaces, such as WhatsApp groups, to give radio broadcasters a place to learn from each other about best practices in COVID-19 radio programming;
- Developing connections between broadcasters and public health authorities in government, multilateral and international organizations and civil society to ensure accurate information goes out and myths are debunked;
- Reminding broadcasters of the steps they can take to stay healthy;
- Commending broadcasters and other journalists for being on the front line and continuing to work in these conditions.
If you would like to share ideas about how we can use accurate radio programming to flatten the curve, tamp down panic, and extend advice and comfort to the people most affected, please get in touch.
Best wishes to you and your colleagues and families as you navigate this emergency and protect your health.
Kevin Perkins is the executive director of Farm Radio International. To learn more about their work, go to: https://farmradio.org/