Radio in Ecuador: participation and pluriformity

June 2007 -

It is four in the morning when Miga Kichwa, the Indian department of local radio station ERPE in Riobamba/Ecuador, starts its morning broadcast. "Ajitutamanta: good morning listeners, and welcome to Miga Kichwa". Julio C├ęsar uses Kiechwa, the most important Indian language in Ecuador, to give the thousands of country dwellers in the region the regional and national news of the morning, contact messages and 'happy music for the daily sunrise'.

Since 1997, Minga Kichwa has become part of the Red Kiechwa or Kiechwa network in which dozens of Kiechwa radio stations in the Andes region cooperate. The network is an initiative by ALER, the Latin American Association for Radio Education. This organisation in Quito uses a network of correspondents and local radio stations to compile cultural radio programmes that are transmitted by satellite to some one hundred radio stations throughout Latin America.

In Latin America, radio is still an uncommonly popular medium, not only in the countryside but especially in urban areas. In the 1990s, for example, numerous commercial stations were launched that place primary focus on the youth and urban culture, while the local radio stations now play a stimulating part in international Indian emancipation processes.

Both Juan Perez, ERPE's director, and Luis Dávila, its former director, recognise the need to constantly attune the radio medium to the rapidly-changing reality of Latin America. Modern technology, including satellite connections and the Internet, offer a solution. They enable radio to respond more rapidly to current events, to keep a close eye on the versatile urban culture, and to play a more social rather than ideological role. Thus radio can transform into an important 'public space': a medium characterised by participation and pluriformity that contributes to strengthening culture and democracy.