It’s not about the money, it’s about the collaboration

These were the words of Daniel van Oudenaren as he tried to explain the motivation behind the newly re-visioned format of the Let’s Talk radio program in South Sudan.

The director of Radio Emmanuel in Torit had been inquiring about getting much-needed equipment.

But Oudenaren stressed that this initiative is about the exchange of news, information – not about supplying them with funds.

In its previous incarnation the program, a mixture of news and radio drama, was produced in Nairobi and then broadcast to the Sudanese community radio stations.

But the Dutch NGO Free Press Unlimited (FPU) wants to change that, having recently been awarded the contract by the US organization called National Democratic Institute.

I joined FPU’s Van Oudenaren on a trip this week to the state of Eastern Equatoria as he attempted to bring local community radio stations on board.

Van Oudenaren explained how the local South Sudanese communities were upset that they didn’t hear more local news on the program.

So now the program will be produced in the capital Juba instead of Nairobi – but more importantly there’ll now be a 2-way relationship.

The local community radio stations from all the states will send a couple of daily news items to be packaged in Juba. These will then be part of the half-hour program.

This new collaborative format ensures that this new nation hears local and national news.

FPU is also creating a program called Ja-een Eeledna – or Come Back Home. It’s a radio drama aimed at those returning from the north to the newly created South Sudan.

The episodes will follow a dozen characters as they journey back to their homeland.

Anyway – our first stop was Magwi FM.

It took us 4 hours of traversing swollen rivers and muddy roads in our 4×4 to reach the station.

But it was worth it.

We received an extremely warm welcome from the small team of volunteers who run the station.

Sadly the station’s been out of commission for 2 months since the receiver died.

For a rural station they were extremely well-organised, but admitted that they lacked formal journalistic training.

The team members – people like Benson, or ‘Uncle Ben’ to his listeners – were excited about the new format of Let’s Talk.

The other stations we visited in Torit like Radio Grace and Radio Emmanuel were equally keen.

Unsurprisingly the response of the state radio station’s director was more muted.

But Van Oudenaren is optimistic the new format will be a success.

So – Let’s Talk.