Transcript PBS America documentary on Koch.
After of all this misery and the malfeasance it's often useful to get a booster shot of hope from folks who take action when faced with a community in crisis.
One place that's happening is Nairobi, Kenya, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Africa. It's the story of a little radio station being run out of a shipping container by and for the people of Nairobi's, Korogocho slum. While the three hundred thousand residents there do pay taxes, they don't get much back from the government in the way of infrastructure or services, and that's just one of the things Koch-fm is looking to change.
Dan Logan produced our report.
BRANCACCIO: Nairobi, Kenya is the bustling commercial hub of East Africa.
But of the city's three million residents, an estimated one-third... that's one million people... live like this.
Right in the middle of Nairobi, you'll find some of the most neglected places on earth... massive slums, where people live in makeshift earth-and-metal huts.
One of those settlements is called Korogocho - which, in Swahili, means scrap metal. It's located right next to a massive garbage dump. People mingle with scavenger birds, picking through the wasteland.
With poverty and disease like this, you can't blame someone for losing hope in this place.
But a group of upstart twenty-somethings are stirring up change.
KOCH FM DJ: We are broadcasting live, straight from the heart of Korogocho and remember this is the first ever community radio station to ever hit Nairobi, so keep it locked to 99.9 FM.
BRANCACCIO: Korogocho or "Koch" for short has its own radio station: Koch fm... a new voice, broadcasting in Swahili and English, for a community that has little sway with its politicians.
WANJIKU: It's high time that young people take action. Young people start acting and just changing the mentality of people.
BRANCACCIO: Helen Wanjiku founded Koch fm nearly two years ago when she was twenty-three. She grew up in Korogocho... but when she was fourteen, one of the slum's local gangs threatened her life and her family.
WANJIKU: They would've come. They would have raped us. And then after raping us, they would have killed us.
BRANCACCIO: She escaped Korogocho and got a college education, thanks to an aunt outside the slum who took her in.
But two years ago, she got word that a close friend had been viciously murdered in a case of domestic abuse. Wanjiku decided to return.
WANJIKU: If maybe I had told her, "If your husband beats you up, please get out." Then, this will not have happened. So that's why I came back.
BRANCACCIO: You found it unacceptable to be too far away because you thought you could do some good here.
WANJIKU: If you get out and go, you tend to forget the problems that you have left behind. But being part of those problems, then you can get solutions for them.
BRANCACCIO: Community radio - cheap to produce and easy to access, compared to television - is a powerful solution for the problems of the developing world, according to aid organizations like the World Bank and the U.N. they've increased their support for radio in recent years... Because its efficiency allows places like Korogocho to tune in to civic life.
KOCH FM DJ: You have to stand for your rights, because when you don't do that, you're killing yourself, you're killing your loved ones...
BRANCACCIO: Getting Koch FM on the air was a big deal. Its founding members raised thirty thousand dollars and bought two shipping containers, fitted with a metal roof, to house the studio. Local authorities were resistant... so Helen and her crew used the element of surprise.
WANJIKU: We went and we built the two containers. We had not asked authority. Like, we had not asked permission.
BRANCACCIO: You didn't ask the authority for permission?
WANJIKU: No, this is a chief—I mean, this is a youth camp. They're supposed to put—build things here. So we didn't ask.
BRANCACCIO: So one day the authorities woke up and there were two shipping containers here?
WANJIKU: Yes. And they came and they locked them and they told us that we are not supposed to put them here.
BRANCACCIO: What could you do then?
WANJIKU: We went around. We brought some things and just came and opened them forcefully.
BRANCACCIO: In the confrontation that followed, another Koch fm founder, Francis Ngira, says he was physically assaulted by the police.
NGIRA: They started beating me up. Then I was like okay, you can beat me. You can hit me. You can jail me. But you won't change me into what you want me to be.
BRANCACCIO: Eventually, Koch FM prevailed, as local authorities backed down and Kenya's communications commission gave them a broadcast frequency... After months of protest.
WANJIKU: We didn't give up. We hassled. Some of us were arrested. But by the end of the day, justice was done.
BRANCACCIO: And you have a license.
WANJIKU: Yeah. Now we have a license. We are broadcasting freely. We can say anything we want to say to educate people.
BRANCACCIO: It's estimated Koch FM's signal reaches 300,000 listeners. With a national election approaching next month, there is heated discussion of topics like government corruption.
KOCH FM DJ: Every day of the budget we know there is money which is allocated for that. What happens to this money? Who is supposed to take care of this?
BRANCACCIO: People in Korogocho do pay taxes and are represented in Kenya's parliament. But city services like sanitation remain virtually non-existent.
WANJIKU: The government has neglected us. They think we are not—not people. They have not given us good water. They have not given us proper sewage system. We have to act as people from the community.
BRANCACCIO: Especially crucial for Helen Wanjiku is the issue of women's empowerment... the subject of her own radio show.
WANJIKU: It will take a lot of time. But one day, we will start realizing that if a man can build a house, so can a woman.
BRANCACCIO: And these are some of the issues you discuss on your—on your program?
WANJIKU: On my program. Yes.
BRANCACCIO: The gender program. What's it actually called?
WANJIKU: Strength of a woman.
BRANCACCIO: Strength of a woman.
BRANCACCIO: Koch FM takes on serious issues. But they've found a way to package them in an engaging way, so people actually listen.
WANJIKU: We call ourselves "Edutainment".
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Edutainment.
WANJIKU: Yes. Edutainment. We believe in educating people through an entertaining way.
BRANCACCIO: An interational non-profit called "Developing Radio Partners" has identified benchmarks for community radio. Koch FM meets some, including a clear mission... a defined audience... and local content.
What they need to work on is financial independence. Grants from George Soros and a coalition of Norwegian churches help pay for equipment. But donor funds might not be around forever.
WANJIKU: What if maybe one day they decide to pull out? The radio station is going to fail. And so what we are doing, we are trying to sell T-shirts. And also—we also come up with adverts, which will be selling airtime to people and also programs.
BRANCACCIO: Oh, so maybe you'd bring on advertisements to the station?
WANJIKU: Yes we are—we will bring on advertisement.
BRANCACCIO: There is hope that those money-making plans will eventually pay people's salaries... in what is now an all-volunteer effort to be the voice for a forgotten community.
KOCH FM DJ: For us here at Koch FM, 99.9, the only radio that gives you the whole reality and nothing but the reality. We are signing out.
BRANCACCIO: And that's it for NOW. From Minneapolis, I'm David Brancaccio. We'll see you next week.
Thanks PBS. Oti