NAMPULA, Mozambique — In a bid to keep pace with the increasing radio listenership potential in Mozambique and beyond, Radio Haq (“truth” in Arabic) is boosting its coverage area.
An Axel Technology Oxygen console runs the on-air studios of Radio Haq. Broadcasting 24 hours a day at 104.4 on the FM dial in Nampula and the surrounding areas, this faith-based station, which hit the airwaves in October 2007, has a full-time staff of 15. With “Radio Verdade” (“Radio of the Truth”) as its motto, Radio Haq aims to contribute to the moral and social economic development of the communities to which it transmits.
“We broadcast in the Portuguese, Macua and Arabic languages,” said Sraj Suleiman, Radio Haq technical director. The station produces programming that deals with Islam, gender, health, community development and other social issues, explains Suleiman, and it has received many requests from neighboring areas to expand its signal coverage to reach new listeners.
The station thus successfully applied to the Mozambique licensing authorities for permission to develop the station into a national radio service.
Jumito Zeferino, head of news, works in the studio.
“Though such a move was unprecedented for a community radio station, the application was reviewed favorably and the authorities have granted provisional permission for the station to transform to a private national service,” he said.
As part of the expansion, the radio organization will unveil in September an 18-meter tower that, says Suleiman, is expected to yield “the best sound quality available in the targeted 18 (out of 21) districts of the Nampula province.”
The station has one on-air studio and a production studio. The air studio is equipped with an Oxygen 4 console from Axel Technology, a Denon DN-C635 CD player, a Tascam 102MKII cassette deck, three Røde
mics and three Fostex T-7 headphones. Its production quarter features a Behringer mixer, two Heil PR 30 mics, a pair of Fostex T-7 headphones, a Denon DN-C635 CD player and a Denon DN-780R cassette player.
“We do not have any immediate plans to change studio equipment because we are satisfied with their performance and we have not encountered any problems to warrant replacing them,” said Suleiman.
Radio Haq logo The station however is focusing on upgrading other areas of the station. It is in the final stages of replacing the current wooden framework, which supports the soundproof tiles in both studios, with a new wooden structure and new acoustic tiles.
“We will fit new double-glazed rubber gasket doors to each room and install acoustic drop ceilings and clad the walls with acoustic wall solution,” said Suleiman. “We are also redesigning the on-air studio to minimize reverberation and applying an Auralex acoustic foam solution.”
On the distribution side of things, the station makes use of a 30-W Audio TX STL mounted on an Audio TX STL Rack, and a Behringer audio processor.
Radio Haq also hopes to invest in a VSAT terminal and lease bandwidth on a satellite to distribute its programming past the borders of Mozambique to cover other countries in southern Africa including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Though satellite fees can be prohibitive, this system has the distinct advantage of providing a clear signal anywhere within the satellite footprint no matter how remote,” he said. “The signal can be received by a low-cost satellite receiver and fed into the local FM transmitter.”
Suleiman is enthusiastic about distributing the Radio Haq signal via satellite but he concedes that the task ahead is not simple. He needs to convince the financial investors and other partners that this technology is viable.
Considering the various dynamics, satellite distribution of the Radio Haq signal is the most feasible option, explains Suleiman. “We need to undertake a large-scale practicability study to identify the most strategic sites for our FM transmitters for rebroadcasting our signal via FM. At the moment, due to the world economic crisis, we are having difficulties convincing our contributors to fund such type of projects. On the other hand there are other supporters who are willing to defy the odds and would come to our rescue and support us,” he said.
To achieve these objectives, Radio Haq is in the process of discussing possible strategic partnerships with service providers like Telecomunições de Moçambique (TDM), MCel and Vodacom to come up with a working agreement where Radio Haq would co-site and add its own antennas to those companies’ towers.
“TDM responded promptly and favorably to the idea of developing a memorandum of understanding whereby Radio Haq would use the TDM networking and pylon infrastructure at a negotiated cost,” said Suleiman. “As Radio Haq would be the first private radio network here to do this on a national level, they would set an important precedent and write a new chapter in the country’s broadcasting sector.”
Siraj Sueliman, technical director of Radio Haq DEFYING THE ODDS
This partnership would also mean that Radio Haq would be the first station to take advantage of the TDM mast space and fiber optic bandwidth at this level. Both of these resources will become limited as the sector develops, so Radio Haq has a distinct advantage as an early adopter.
While the TDM partnership appears attractive to Suleiman, he says that the station cautiously is considering alternative methods of signal networking and expansion such as independent pylons and working more closely with the cellphone operators.
“We understand that TDM does not have a complete infrastructure and co-sites with MCel in certain areas. This means that Radio Haq needs to continue its bid to develop a memorandum of understanding with MCel either directly or via the TDM partnership,” he said. The cellphone companies have a more comprehensive pylon infrastructure than TDM and provide signal delivery potential to even the most rural areas, explains Suleiman.
Suleiman says that if all goes according to plans, Radio Haq will soon rank among the best stations of its type not only in just the province of Nampula and but in Mozambique as a whole.
Lameck Masina reports on the industry for Radio World from Blantyre, Malawi.