Sagal Opens New Studio

Sagal Radio opens their new studio in June 2009 with the help of Prometheus.

Sagal Opens New Studio

When Hussien Mohamed started Sagal Radio eleven years ago, he struggled to keep the station alive. He could not dare to think about the station thriving, not when he did not know whether the next month's bills would be paid or if there would be enough volunteers for this weekend's broadcast. The possibility of Sagal having its own studio seemed almost impossible. Still, Mohamed hoped. “We've been dreaming about getting a studio for a long time,” he said. “But we never thought we would get it.”

These dreams for this station in Atlanta, broadcast in four East African languages and English, came true in June with the help of Dr. Ericka Tucker, the Graduate Fellow from Emory University's Office of University-Community Partnerships. She had worked with Prometheus Radio Project, an organization that builds community radio stations to empower those communities. It wants to demystify technology for the stations it works with, for no labor costs. Tucker pitched the idea of using part of the grant from the Robert Wood Foundation to build the studio. “I knew Prometheus was really focused on getting the most out of the money we had to spend to buy what we really need,” she said.

So she contacted Prometheus in the spring and immediately caught the organization's interest. “The thing that set Sagal apart for me was that they are their constituency,” said Andy Gunn, Prometheus' Technical and Training Organizer. “They're run by the people the represent. Even though they're providing a service for people, they're providing it to their friends, their family, and their community. So it's not folks outside of the community doing charity. Refugees are providing services for the same group of people. That was really inspiring to me.”

The rest of the staff at Prometheus agreed, and Gunn flew to Atlanta with Ryan Dennison, a Prometheus intern, on June 10. And for the next five days, they converted a room at the Sagal Radio office into a fully functioning studio, recruiting the help of Sagal volunteers and interns.

Tucker was not surprised that Gunn and Dennison trained Sagal staff to build the equipment themselves. She had known that Prometheus would empower the Sagal volunteers to take ownership of the studio. “Other engineers don't think about the people. [Andy and Ryan] did some things that were unorthodox by putting the interns in a position of power. So when Andy and Ryan were gone, they took over.”

And they did, taking the initiative to start a youth radio program recorded in that studio. While the station will continue to rent studio facilities for their live broadcasts, this new studio, which is in the community it serves, will allow members of the community to come and record programs that they want to share with their friends and families. “We want the studio to bring the community together,” Mohamed said.

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