Azzam Al Azzam, 35, has been working for 8 years at Yarmouk FM in Irbid, currently as a radio program manager. He holds a Master’s degree in media and is passionate about radio. Azzam has started the morning the way he does many days; he has just finished meeting with a team of radio station volunteers, brainstorming program ideas for upcoming shows.
Since 2014, the “Support to Media in Jordan” (STMJ) project has worked to support Jordan’s efforts in advancing Jordanian media to further increase its freedom, independence and professionalism. The European Union (EU) has not only generously funded these efforts, but it is a strong partner in collaborating with UNESCO to strengthen an enabling regulatory and institutional environment and enhance the capacity for an independent, quality based media sector in Jordan serving the entire population.
Under the STMJ project, the EU funds were invested in the high-tech equipment required to refurbish Yarmouk FM and the Faculty of Mass Communications as part of a larger 1.5 million euro donation to develop local radios and universities around Jordan. At the Faculty of Mass Communications, the equipment includes 120 desktop computers in the multimedia computer labs, a new mixer, a professional tuner, a professional CD/MP3 player, headphones, microphones, studio desks and workstations, while the TV studio has three new studio cameras, a professional prompter, a studio monitor, microphones and audio monitors.
Finally, Yarmouk FM has moved to a brand new location and received new equipment including mixers, a professional tuner, headphones, microphones, an audio processor, studio desks, portable recorders, new workstations and computers and a new transmitter will soon be installed. The EU investment will work to improve the ability of beneficiaries to provide high quality media content and train the next generation of media leaders.
His Excellency Mr. Andrea Matteo Fontana, EU Ambassador to Jordan, describes the generous support by saying, “As part of our broader efforts to support the media sector in Jordan, we want to support community radios. Secondly, we want to reach out to students so they can have better opportunities to become professionals and thirdly, we believe that this is going to help young people to find jobs in the private sector”.
Azzam speaks enthusiastically about the tremendous benefit of the concrete EU support, “Before we received the new media equipment, it was a choice of life or death for Yarmouk FM. The old equipment was obsolete. I see the equipment donation as the most important aspect of the EU support”.
In addition to the provision of high-tech equipment and with the EU’s strong partnership and critical financial support, UNESCO has been implementing a series of trainings that are part of a larger capacity development support program. Technical expertise has been provided for the revision of the entry-level journalism curricula at Yarmouk University, which has resulted in the addition of new mandatory courses, including Journalism Ethics, Investigative Journalism for TV and Radio and Digital Media. The new courses engage modern teaching methodologies that respond to the needs of the local media sector and meet international standards of journalism education.
Yarmouk FM relies heavily on student volunteers, with an estimated 50-60 students participating in radio work at 105.7 Yarmouk FM. The students do not receive university credits for this work but are deeply dedicated to producing quality programming. From editors, to technicians, to reporters, to communications and PR people, the volunteers hatch programming ideas with guidance from Azzam, and approximately ten days later, the programs go on air. “I am proud that approximately 80-90% of the programming on Yarmouk FM is broadcast live and encourages interaction with our audience”, says Azzam.
Aoun Al Hadded, 21, has been working at Yarmouk FM for three years and hopes to continue his volunteer role even after his graduation from Yarmouk University this summer. “When I started, I was preparing local news and editing and now I produce and present programs, especially the breakfast program, هوران هوا (‘Hawa Hauran’) which is very popular”.
Aoun continues, “I have learned so much about radio over the past few years and I really enjoy passing on my knowledge and sharing my experiences with new volunteers at the station. In the future, I want to be a reporter that focuses either on football or covers news coming out of Jerusalem”.
The EU and UNESCO share the same values and believe that a free, independent and professional media environment is fundamental to the process of democracy and sustainable development. When journalists follow professional standards and are able to express themselves and access information freely and when the media can operate independently from political forces without fearing censorship, the media sector becomes a platform for democratic dialogue and a crucial instrument to transparency and accountability in a society.
Recently, with technical support provided under the project, the team at Yarmouk FM has been working to bolster their connection with listeners and the local community. The “listener’s club” is composed of members interested in providing real feedback to Yarmouk FM; participants listen to the programming as it airs and then contribute constructive evaluation of the themes and material, with the overall aim of supporting the delivery of quality, connected programming. The club also works to provide an element of ‘citizen journalism’, with members contacting the station with ideas or to when something newsworthy is taking place within the community.
Azzam is pleased with the collaborative and not-for-profit status of Yarmouk FM. “As we are not influenced by the private sector or other forces, we enjoy freedom in our broadcasting and really feel we are doing something for the local people we are proud to call our listeners”.