Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kyodo news: 21 mini FM stations helping survivors

 Sendai — A total of 21 mini FM radio stations have obtained government licenses to operate as provisional broadcasters, giving people postdisaster information in areas ravaged by last month's earthquake and tsunami, the communications ministry said Wednesday.

 Disaster update: Staff at Natori Saigai FM radio station gather to broadcast disaster information for residents in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, on Saturday.

 The ministry said it plans to support the broadcasters by giving them discounts on radio licensing fees and possibly granting subsidies to municipalities running them, as it may take much longer to rehabilitate the devastated communities than in past disasters.
 The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is authorized to issue special licenses to municipalities to set up radio stations to provide disaster information to communities. Applicant municipalities can seek licenses without official documents.
 The FM radio stations in northeastern and eastern regions provide information, including on how evacuees are living in shelters and various lifeline services like the restoration of electricity and medical services, and do not get advertising revenues in most cases.
 Local residents provide services to operate on a voluntary basis after the municipalities get the licenses.
 The 21 stations are the largest number of local disaster broadcasters set up following a major catastrophe since the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. There were seven in Japan before the March 11 twin disasters.
 Radio Ishinomaki in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the 21 broadcasters, began notifying survivors quickly about the fate of residents and where they can get free meals, using its own power generator.
 Natori Saigai (disaster) FM aired on April 10 in the Natori government building with local women and city officials playing central roles in its launch.
 One day, the station aired a song for the tsunami-submerged Yuriage Elementary School at the request of an elderly man, who graduated from there, and later received a phone call from another listener, who said he wept listening to the song.
 "Our radio station is having the effect of bringing back together the members of the original community, who are now being forced to live in separate shelters as a result of the quake," said Takehiro Wako, a 47-year-old staff member at the station.
 The municipal government of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, launched an FM radio as its original disaster wireless communication network was swept away by the tsunami.
 Toshiaki Yaginuma, a 52-year-old official at the municipal planning division, said, "It will take considerable time for us to revive the antidisaster wireless communication network, so this station is functioning as a useful communications tool, as electricity has not yet been restored to the community."


Digital delay for some
Kyodo news

 The communications ministry said Wednesday it will delay a complete shift to terrestrial digital television broadcasts in three prefectures most severely stricken by the March 11 quake and tsunami by up to one year from the initially planned July 24.
 The tsunami swept away numerous facilities for receiving such broadcasts in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures and the government-led campaign for the shift has halted, said Hideo Hiraoka, senior vice minister for internal affairs and communications.
 Concern has been growing in the disaster areas that a complete shift from analog broadcasts would strip evacuees and others of a major means to receive vital information related to the disaster, such as aftershocks.



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