Following a trend that swept through Africa in the 1990s, the Episcopal Conference of Lesotho decided to open a radio station to serve both Church and society. The Catholic Church is firmly established in the country, and cooperates with the government in many areas, from education to health. At the same time, it needs its space where to talk to and encounter a greater audience. In a country where communication remains difficult due to the rugged terrain, a radio is ideal to reach people in all corners.
The radio, which carries the unimaginative name of Catholic Radio of Lesotho, was opened in 1999 and it is housed within the offices of the Catholic Secretariat in Maseru, a stone throw from the centre of the capital. I meet the director, Father Martin Masasa, in the lobby. “I am a priest from the diocese of Leribe, on eof the four of Lesotho – he tells me. I was asked to run the radio, which is not an easy task at the moment. We had a fire in 2010 and for a few months we were off air. We are now back, even though our offices are not yet completely rebuilt”.
I ask him news about the radio. “We broadcast in FM, we cover Maseru and adjacent areas. Before the fire broke out, we had a good following. Many people called the radio and we had positive feedbacks from the parishes and groups we met. We are now back on air and we are trying hard to win back those listeners who switched to one of the other ten stations present in the capital”.
What is your programs greed?
Our programs cover religion, but also politics and social issues, like health and education. In the evenings we have entertainment but also panel discussions on popular topics. We organize debates on legal affairs, economics, and political decisions. We give time to Hiv/Aids awareness campaigns, which is an important issue in our country
How do you cover costs?
We do not have a financial backing, and so we try to do what everyone else does. We support the radio through local advertising and public announcements. Local businesses ask us to advertise their product and services. Others place announcements on the radio to reach out to people they lost contact of. We also ask for support to well-wishers and sponsors to make a donation to support a program or a special event. It is not easy, but so far we managed to stay afloat.
Any future plan of expansion?
The Radio was started to cover the whole country. This is per se a difficult task. Most of Lesotho is mountainous, and there are deep valleys, especially in the central region. However, we are now studying the possibility to have other stations in the different dioceses and to link them. The network would cover most of the nation. Such network would also allow us to have the bulk of programming at national level, and to switch to local programs in certain times of the day. We broadcast in English and Sesotho, which is the national language. It would be matter to set up local editorial desks to write news and programs dedicated to each single region of the country.
How do your rate this service?
Lesotho is almost all evangelized. The majority follows the Catholic Church, but there are also other denominations. Yet, the work of evangelization is not finished. There is still much to do so that the Gospel may really influence the lives of people. The radio is good instrument for that. Besides, our programs are not parochial, they are open to all.