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PHILIPPINES: LGBT Radio Switches to Podcasting

MANILA, Feb 8 2012 (IPS) - Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues have generally been ignored in the Philippines, or worse, negatively portrayed to spice up mainstream media programmes.

News of raids on gays, killings or violence involving them gets splashed all over the tabloids and primetime news when “nothing else is happening”, reinforcing negative stereotypes.

What made a dent in that situation was the entry of ‘Rainbow Radio Philippines’, Manila’s first and only LGBT radio show that was aired every Saturday afternoon from November 2009 to April 2010.

Conceptualised and run by the Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights), a group of lesbian and gay lawyers and legal activists, and supported by the Global Fund for Women, the weekly programme gathered Filipino LGBT, their families and supporters to share and discuss issues, news and events.

– Talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues is not part of the mainstream media in the Philippines, but activists now want to use the internet to change that. right-click to download

While the programme was originally broadcasted live over FM and AM radio the episodes continue to be available on the R- Rights website.

“The programme arose out of the need to educate the public,” said Maica Lagman, a volunteer who served as the host. “Not everyone had access to TV or print, so we thought that it would be very strategic to broadcast over radio.”

This year, R-Rights is exploring free social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook to podcast and videocast LGBT issues. The plan is to use some of the audio content from the radio programme and update it with popular music to make short audio or video clips.

There also are plans to continue airing the radio programme through a local campus radio station. “If not, our contingency plan is to broadcast it over the web as podcasts,” said Lagman.

“We want to come up with an international episode in English, talking about the Philippines,” Angie Umbac, president of R-Rights and coordinator for campaigns and external relations, told IPS.

Umbac said the plan for an international episode was in response to demands from the international LGBT community that cannot follow the Filipino language.

Rainbow Radio used a mix of English and Filipino, the national language, in order to reach the masses. A typical episode ran for about 60 minutes and tackled one main theme per issue – human rights, gay pride, or LGBTs in the media.

The feel of the programme was upbeat and cheerful and guest speakers included prominent LGBT personalities in different fields – academics, media, musicians, lawyers and psychologists.

Says Lagman: “When we produced the show, we always made it a point to represent the LGBTs… because in commercial or mainstream media, they aren’t really given space.”

Founding president of R-Rights and policy advocacy coordinator Atty. Germaine Leonin told IPS that the programme was “meant to cover the whole range of LGBTs, the age groups and also the class.”

The programme which touched an array of controversial topics such as same-sex marriage and adoption, suicide, hate crimes and discrimination “had to be simplified and ‘laymanised’ so that listeners would understand that LGBT concerns are actually the same concerns of ‘straight’ society.”

One episode on ‘coming out’ had LGBT guest speakers sharing the difficulties and reasons that prompted them to come out of the closet. For a Christmas episode, the programme focused on how alternative families or families with LGBTs celebrated Yuletide.

“We featured LGBT families … kids who are raised by LGBT couples who are really wanted and loved. I think the main message was there’s more than one kind of family,” said Lagman.

Leonin said that the usual approach to tackling LGBT issues is through schools, education, information campaigns, and forums and symposia. R-Rights wanted to reach the common people and turned to community radio.

“It was a novel approach to advocacy,” Leonin told IPS.

Because of the nature of the medium, the team “had to make it fun” by incorporating music by lesbian and gay artistes, announcements of activities by different LGBT groups, and highlighting celebrations like Gay Pride Marches instead of just focusing on pure advocacy.

Before the boom of Internet and social networking sites in recent years, radio enjoyed a fairly high penetration rate in the country compared to other forms of traditional media.

“In some of the poorer countries, especially in Asia, radio is still one of the best modes of reaching out to the people,” said Leonin.

Bianca Miglioretto, a community radio trainer and consultant who works with the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters says community radio has a great potential to enable LGBT people to shape their own programmes.

Such programmes can be “based on the issues and rights debates they want to discuss in public and the advocacy they feel most appropriate in the context of the communities they live in,” Miglioretto told IPS.

The colourful radio programme helped raise awareness and empower the local LGBT community by providing them basic legal knowledge of their rights. Lawyers answered questions regarding LGBT rights, while psychologists provided advice on how to deal with various related issues.

“We were unashamed to tackle the difficult issues,” Umbac said.

During its run, the radio programme received numerous calls, emails and messages even from listeners abroad who were able to listen to the episodes online.

“There are still requests from people who want to help with the radio programme,” says Umbac. “What we can do is probably make advocacy podcasts.”

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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