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Opening Indonesia to the world
After the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, Santoso and a small group of journalist colleagues were looking for a way to end the state’s 30-year grip on news.
They wanted to find a way to provide quality information and opinion to some of Indonesia’s 18,000 islands, whose citizens had been starved of independent news for a generation. Their solution was to set up the country’s first independent radio news agency to produce high quality programming and distribute it to stations across the archipelago that don’t have the resources or capacity to produce their own shows.
KBR68H’s team of seven journalists began producing a 15-minute news programme, soon extending it to 30 minutes. Their original plan was to distribute it by internet across the archipelago but connections were too slow and they were forced to restrict their distribution to stations near Jakarta accessible by motorbike taxi. Even so, KBR68H was the first non-state radio broadcaster to produce a news bulletin and the first to offer an editorial on air.
In 2000, with MDIF assistance, KBR68H identified an affordable solution to slow internet connections that opened up the whole country to their programming: satellite.
Since then, MDIF has been a constant partner, providing a variety of finance and business support, helping Santoso and his colleagues to develop KBR68H’s content and geographic coverage. A staff of 100 now produce 8 hours of programming each day on issues such as health, education and religious tolerance that is broadcast by a network of more than 1,000 stations – mainly in Indonesia but also more than 200 across Southeast and South Asia – to more than 15 million people.
Not content to provide news through existing stations, KBR68H has also helped to set up 40 radio stations in remote areas, such as a “micro-hydro radio” in Yahukimo in Papua and Radio Gogali in Central Sumba – places which did not have electricity before KBR68H’s involvement. They also publish books on radio journalism and provide training for local journalists.
KBR68H, Santoso and his colleagues have received more than 20 national and international awards recognising their work, including the prestigious King Baudouin International Development Prize. But they refuse to sit on their laurels and continue to find new ways to support Indonesia on its route to democratic and economic development, from setting up environmental radio station Green Radio to providing emergency assistance after the Aceh tsunami and the Jakarta floods.