AWR has introduced many initiatives in the five years since the 2005 General Conference session, and has been pleased to receive recognition from some unexpected sources.
- Twenty-five new languages have been added to AWR’s shortwave and FM broadcasts. New broadcasts in Thai, Lao, and Hmong—which are produced at a new studio at Mission College in Thailand—are particularly noteworthy, as their addition gives AWR complete coverage of Southeast Asia.
- Numerous other new studios have been built and equipped with AWR’s assistance, including ones in Israel, Turkey, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, and more.When changing circumstances in Nepal brought new religious freedom, AWR began broadcasting on a few local FM stations. That arrangement has grown to a network of 12 stations spread across the country.
- In Somalia the Somali Times conducted research that showed that 75 percent of Somalians listen to AWR. This ranking put AWR in second place to the BBC by only 5 percent.
- When the government of Madagascar created a nationwide project to increase awareness of the problems of poverty and HIV/AIDS, it chose four radio stations—including AWR—to work closely with it on the initiative.
- The Voice of Hope Media Center in Russia received two highly prestigious national awards—“Socially Aware Enterprise” and “Best Company of the Year: 2009”—in recognition of “its active participation in the development of Russian society.” AWR is currently broadcasting on a network of 1,500 stations in Russia.
- In China, AWR is broadcasting 10 hours of programming a day in the Mandarin language via shortwave radio.
Successful Pilot Projects
At a new studio in Israel the team of volunteer producers includes former professional handball player and Olympic medalist Eugenia Tovstogan.
AWR tests the feasibility of new broadcast technologies by setting up pilot projects in various areas. In one initiative, AWR obtained a supply of self-contained digital audio players, called MegaVoice Ambassadors, that could be preloaded with up to 160 hours of recordings. These were distributed in South Sudan through a partnership with district pastors. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
In another series of projects, AWR distributed quantities of special shortwave radios in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cambodia, Philippines, and Madagascar. These radios can be powered by four different energy sources—batteries, electricity, solar panels, or hand cranks (a feature that makes them ideal for users in remote areas).
When AWR made programs in several languages available as Internet podcasts, the number of subscribers climbed quickly, despite virtually no publicity efforts. As a result, AWR has made a major investment in a media asset management system called Mediator, which will enable all of its radio programs to be automatically repurposed as podcasts.
With Mediator’s capability AWR’s ministry has suddenly expanded to what it calls a “new continent”—that is, the digital world, where people can access programs in their mother tongues, regardless of where they are living. Notably, it will also be possible to hear AWR programming regularly for the first time in North America and other places where it does not normally broadcast. Churches and members will be able to use the podcasts as a valuable tool as they seek to minister to their non-English-speaking neighbors and communities.
In the summer of 2009 AWR began airing programs in the Lao language to listeners in the country of Laos. “This is a historic occasion,” says AWR president Ben Schoun, “as this is the first Adventist media broadcast to the people of Laos in their own language. In addition, with our launch of Thai programs in Thailand, we now have complete coverage of Southeast Asia.”