Office of Social Communication (OSC)
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) is an international Catholic shortwave Radio Station for Asia broadcasting on 16 different languages. The FABC through its Office of Social Communication (OSC) is responsible for the operations and financing of the station, whereas the legal body is the "Philippine Radio Educational and Information Center" (PREIC).
The FABC Office has a special consultant for Radio Veritas Asia.
Radio Veritas Asia Missionary for Asia
For the first time in history more than 100 bishops from all over Asia and Oceania met from December 10 to 16 1958 in the Central Seminary of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. This "Conventus Episcoporum Asiae Austro-orientalis" was presided by Cardinal Gregory Peter XV Agagianian the that time Pro-prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. He was the special envoy appointed as delegate by Pope John XXIII to this meeting which comprised 10 Apostolic Nuncios from Egypt to New Zealand, 16 Archbishops and 79 bishops from 17 different nations of the Asia-Pacific region. The meeting was especially called to curb the spread of communism in Asia as the secretary to the Cardinal Msgr. Adone Terzariol told the Press:" The Far East is on fire and we must do something about it to prevent further encroachments of the enemy of Christ and Truth on earth". It was here that a first proposal was made to start an international catholic radio station for Asia since the airwaves would cross
boundaries and could not be hindered by political powers: "The delegates unanimously resolved to establish a radio station with an information center that will serve the countries of South-East Asia."
Rufino Cardinal Santos of Manila, the local host of the international conference, took this proposal and started to explore possibilities for such a radio station for Asia as well as one to serve the Philippines. He created the "Philippine Radio Education and Information Center" (PREIC) as the legal body for the project.
Through contacts at the Eucharistic Congress in Munich 1960 he developed contacts to Bonn, the that time seat of the German Government. He could present the project personally to the first German Chancellor Dr. Konrad Adenauer which finally resulted in a commitment that the German government would pay 75% of the expenses for the equipment and installation of a short wave radio station. Three years later a contract for the technical equipment was signed. After many difficulties the station finally got on the air on April 11, 1969 with an inauguration message of Pope Paul VI delivered by Antonio Card. Samore as the Pope's special representative.
The bishops of Asia met again for a second time in Manila one year after the Radio Veritas opening because of Pope Paul VI's visit to Asia. This was also the occasion for the foundation of the "Federation of Asian Bishop's Conferences"(FABC). Right in their first statement the bishops said 1970 that experts and Episcopal Conferences should "work out ways and means for effective use of Radio Veritas regarding Overseas broadcasting." At the first general assembly of the FABC four years later (1974)the FABC formally undertook the responsibility for the operations and financing of the overseas service with the "Philippine Radio Education and Information Center" (PREIC) the legal body of the station in the Philippines.
After one of the two 100 KW transmitters broke down on June 1972 and the second on August 18 1973 the shortwave transmission had to be cancelled because of lack of funds and equipment for repair. Following an instruction from the Secretariat of State in the Vatican the Apostolic Nuncio in Manila initiated the re-activation of the station with a meeting on September 13, 1973. The costs for the re-establishment of the station were counted and Msgr. Deskur from the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications convened January 1974 a meeting for the Bishops' conferences of Asia and funding Agencies in Hong Kong for a new start. Some of the proposals made that time include the following:
- "The FABC should accept collegial responsibility for Asia and accept the direction of the Radio Veritas Overseas Service.
- The responsible body would be the Commission for Social Communications of the FABC , working in cooperation with the Hierarchy of the Philippines.
- There should be a clear agreement on finance, with the Propagation of the Faith and the agencies for aid.
- Even the small (poor) countries of Asia would be able to contribute to RVA by supporting their own local production centers…
- All believed that each country should share in the general expenses, as a collegial effort…"
All these proposals were accepted by the first FABC Plenary Assembly April 1974 in Taipei. With the fresh mandate, which was renewed 1990 at the FABC Plenary in Bandung ("Radio Veritas Asia Covenant") Radio Veritas Asia has been developing and working till today.
A major change in the overall structure of Radio Veritas occurred 1990, when the national ("home") Service fully separated from the Overseas Service to become a national commercial radio station for the Philippines. Since than the former overseas service operates fully independent as Radio Veritas Asia and as a non-commercial station which remains in the responsibility of the FABC bishops.
The finances are provided by different bishops and bishops' conferences of Asia but in major part by the Pontifical Mission Societies (Propaganda Congregation) and European Funding agencies.
Radio Veritas Asia now broadcasts in 16 different languages over three shortwave transmitters with 250 KW capacity. One of these transmitters is a personal gift of the late Cardinal Josef Hoeffner from the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, who at the occasion of a personal jubilee celebration asked for this as gift to be passed on to the Church in Asia.
The biggest slot of broadcasting time in Radio Veritas Asia goes to the Mandarin program for mainland China with daily four hours. This is complemented with additional 50 minutes Mandarin from Vatican Radio, relayed via the RVA transmitters. The next biggest slot is the Program in Vietnamese language with daily 2hours and 30 minutes. These are followed by programs with twice 30 minutes each in the morning and evening for the 14 other languages like Burmese, Karen, Kachin for Burma/Myanmar, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu and Tamil for India and Bangladesh, Urdu for Pakistan and also India. The daily Zomi-Chin service reaches also parts of Myanmar and north-east India. The Tamil service for India reaches also the Tamil speaking areas of Sri Lanka and a considerable number of Tamil speakers in Myanmar and other Asian countries. The Hindi program covers in India the whole Hindi Belt with some 600 Million people for this language alone. On the other side of the spectrum is the Hmong service which provides for a 1.5 Million minority living in parts of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
Content and the Format of Radio Veritas Asia broadcasts are in principle in the responsibility of the national or regional bishops' conferences of the respective countries or states. As much as possible the programs are produced in communication centers in the target areas with only the transmission done from the Philippines. For the major programs like Mandarin, Vietnamese, Burmese, Karen, Kachin, however, this is not possible for political reasons. They are therefore produced in the RVA studios in Quezon City,Manila except for Mandarin which is served from Taiwan. For some other languages, especially those with news programs there are still a coordinator and a few producers also in the Quezon City studios.
It is important, however, that the overall responsibility for sending people to Manila is in the hands of the respective bishops conferences with their bishop responsible for Social Communication. They select and send the editors needed to Manila.
In most of the target areas we were able to establish "Language Program Boards" with the Communication bishop as chairman. They are composed of one or two more bishops and people responsible for certain pastoral and evangelization activities like catechesis, human development or other areas which should be reflected in the RVA programs. These Program Boards are considered the home base for the actual programs and the people involved in this work.
Programs and Listeners
The program content of RVA broadcasts covers basically three areas: moral-religious, social-cultural and socio-political concerns. The emphasis differs from language to language and also according to local and cultural needs in the target areas. In most programs the sociopolitical content with issues on human development is bigger. Thus in the Sinhala Program for Sri Lanka the socio-political content covers around 65 % of the program whereas the moral-religious is given with 35 %. For the Bengali Service for Bangladesh and West Bengal the socio-political is 78% and moral-religious covers 22% of the program time. The Urdu service for Pakistan and parts of India has similar dimensions with 65% socio-political and 35 % moral-religious. Other programs have similar data.
The target audience of Radio Veritas Asia is not only the catholic but in many cases rather the general population with their traditional religious background. In fact in many cases 90 % of the listeners are non-Christians.
In the course of the years it was possible to develop in many areas listener clubs where the people join and also discuss in groups the content of the programs. This is strengthened through annual listener's meetings where also the producers are present for feedback and proposals. This meetings are always an impressive testimony for the power of radio and especially also the influence of Radio Veritas Asia. Already the number of participants very often is impressive. Thus the listener's meeting for the Tamil program Octiber 2004 in Tiruchirapalli (India) had some 500 participants and 90 % of them Hindus. Many come from far distant places with travel to up to one day and more on their own expense. Other listener's meetings have an average of 200 participants. For the silver jubilee celebration of the Telugu Program 2001 in Hyderabad more than 1000 listeners appeared. It is impressive to hear at those occasions how the programs of Radio Veritas Asia touch the life of individuals and groups and to see how they appreciate this service via radio. They very often confirm that these programs help them to better master their lives and develop a deeper and clear direction.
Programs and Listeners
Technically Radio Veritas Asia is limited in its broadcasting capacity by the three existing transmitters. A fourth transmitter would be needed to fulfill the wish of many listeners to have the same program on two different wavelengths at the same time to select the one with the better reception. But the costs for such technical development can simply not be covered. The conversion of the existing transmitters to digital technology is in progress to also reduce the running costs in the future.
Beside further technical developments for digital reception with shortwave broadcasts to reach FM quality additional possibilities for RVA programming and transmission are explored. Thus the Mandarin and Vietnamese programs are already partly available on the Internet with other programs to follow.
Also the possibilities for local re-broadcasts of RVA programs are to be further explored, which are not that easy in a continent where Christianity is a very small minority.
The "Missionary of Asia"
Beside Radio Vaticana Radio Veritas Asia is the only catholic radio station to serve a whole continent. Pope John Paul II described the direction and purpose of the station at a celebration for its 25th anniversary while being in Manila January 14, 1995: "Today, Radio Veritas Asia continues to be a powerful expression of the co-responsibility of the bishops of Asia in pursuing with vision and enthusiasm the Church's missionary mandate. The fact that the gospel is heard in so many of this continent's languages truly makes Radio Veritas Asia 'the Voice of Asian Christianity." and he further stated: "Radio Veritas Asia can be proud of the respectful dialogue which it fosters with the followers of other religions, who make up such a large part of his listeners…"
In the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia(1999) the Pope further recommends the station in saying: "I echo the Synod Fathers' commendation of Radio Veritas Asia, the only continent-wide radio station for the Church in Asia, for its almost thirty years of evangelization through broadcasting. Efforts must be made to strengthen this excellent instrument of mission, through appropriate language programming, personnel and financial help from Episcopal Conferences and dioceses in Asia."
It is not always easy to keep the bishops aware of their responsibility and to coordinate and direct the different activities, including the recruitment of capable personnel and the financial support. But with a little bit of good will and trust in God's calling the station should be of service also in many years to come.
Presented at the General Assembly
Pontifical Council for Social Communication
By: Franz-Josef Eilers, svd
Vatican February 24. 2005
For further details see www.rveritas-asia.org