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Radio Maranon, Peru

By Don Moore

A slightly edited version of this article was originally published in the February 1994 issue of The Journal of the North American Shortwave Association in the Latin Destinations column.

Peruvian stations in the tropical bands tend to come and go with the seasons, so it's not that big of a deal when one reactivates, But I've been pleased to hear Radio Marafion once again active on 4835 kHz in the morning. They sign-on at 1000 and can be heard with local announcements and huaynos until Guatemalan powerhouse Radio Tezulutlan comes on, usually at 1100, Radio Marahon is one of several Catholic-run grass-roots stations in Peru, such as Radio Quillabamba, which I featured in the 2/91 column (available through the NASWA reprints service). I've dug out my copy of "Radio y Comunicacion Popular en el Peru" and looked up the chapter on Radio Maranon to see what it had to say. The chapter was written by Jose Luis P. Maldonado, a Jesuit who worked there when this book was published in 1987.

Radio Maranon,is located in the town of Jaen in the northern part of Cajamarca Department, not far from the Ecuadorian border. As noted above, this is a Roman Catholic station and is owned by the Archbisopic of Jaen. The coverage area includes a lot of towns familiar to DXers , such as Huancabamba, Chota, Cutervo, Bagua, and Rioja. It is not these towns, however, but rather the rural areas around them that Radio Maranon directs its programming to. The station's principal objective is educating the campesinos, or rural peasants, in the hinterlands where the Andes mountains meet the Amazon jungle. Radio Maranon has little competition for the listenership of the campesinos. The commercial stations in the region all aim their programming at the people in the towns, since that's who has the money to buy their advertisers' products. Studies by Radio Maranon have shown that the campesinos sometimes listen to shortwave stations from Ecuador and Colombia for their music, but that doesn't detract too much from the station's listenership.

Radio Maranon tries to keep in constant contact with its audience, which is not an easy feat when the listeners are scattered across a large area and most of the roads are little more than dirt tracks. But priests who travel from village to village saying mass also talk with the villagers about their lives and problems and how Radio Maranon's programming serves them. This information is fed back to the station. Periodic courses are given in Jaen for lay leaders, and when they come to town station staff listen to what they have to say. And, of course, there are listeners' letters. We might sometimes think that stations get overloaded with DX reports, but stations like Radio Maranon may get a hundred local letters for every DX report!

Education of the campesino is the guiding principal behind all of Radio Marafion's programming. But the station staff understand that education is not just learning facts. An important aspect of the programming is teaching the peasants critical thinking skills and helping them understand their role and theirculture's role in the world around them. In fact, shortly after getting started the station got a first hand look at the peasants' lack of critical thinking skills when it first polled listeners on which programs they most liked or thought were most useful and those they least liked. The results were that every program was liked equally well and was equally useful!

So, what kind of programming does Radio Maranon broadcast? As with other Latin American stations aiming for a rural orsmall town audience, the main listening times are around sunrise and sundown, which is when the campesinos are most likely to be around their radios. The morning broadcast focuses on education with news, information on growing various crops, and brief lessons in Peruvian history, geography, nutrition, sociology, physics, and the Bible, among otherthings. Traveling priests distribute free notebooks for listeners to use while listening to these broadcasts. Most educational programs are repeated later in the day for those who might miss them in the morning.

News is considered especially important at Radio Maranon and there is a daily fifty minute newscast as well as several shorter ones. Good newscasts are seen as another way to educate the listeners and help them form opinions of the world around them, and should be devoid of the sensationalism and factual manipulation sometimes found in small station newscasts in Latin America. For international news, the station daily monitors Spanish newscasts from the BBC Radio Netherlands, Deutsche Welle, and the Voice of America. For timely national news they listen to Peruvian stations in the large cities; other news is taken from national newspapers, which arrive in Jaen several days after being printed. Finally, for local items, Radio Maranon has over two hundred volunteer correspondents in its target are who send periodic reports of their local new and events. With inadequate transportation and postal services, these reports take day or even weeks to arrive, but fortunately most are not overly time-sensitive.

Among other special programs on Radio Maranon are "Encuentro", which addresses social issues, such as hygiene, delinquency, honor, respect for the aged, etc, "Mesa Redonda" where station staff, church and community leaders debate local issues, and "Personajes" which each week looks at the life of either a famous Peruvian, or a famous individual in the history of the Catholic church. "Radiola" is the program where listeners can send greetings and messages to one another, as is commonly done in Latin American radio. Music programs include folk music in the early morning and romantic and pop music later in the day. Although Radio Maranon is a religious station, the staff realize that most of the listeners would be bored by strong doses of religious programming, so religion is restricted to a few brief prayers and Bible verses throughout the day. The exception, of course, is Sunday, when there are several lengthy programs of religious instruction plus two broadcasts of mass from the Cathedral.

So, pull yourself out of bed some morning (hi!) and give Radio Maranon a try! Buena sintonia y hasta luego! Don


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Association of North American Radio Clubs
DXer of the Year for 1995

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