Fear for migrant workers' channel amid board row

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am


Uncertainty over the future of the Digital Broadcasting Corporation is likely to claim another victim: a radio station devoted to Hong Kong's migrant workers.

The Digital We channel, the city's first multi-ethnic digital radio station, broadcasts programmes in six languages, attracting listeners who have neither the Cantonese nor the English to follow the city's established broadcast media.

DBC revealed on Friday that its shareholders were split on the direction of the station's seven digital broadcasting channels, founded last year by former lawmaker and radio host Albert Cheng King-hon. The revelation prompted speculation that the station and its shareholders had come under political pressure.

Digital We went on air in March and broadcasts shows round the clock in Urdu, Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi, Nepali, Thai and Tagalog .

One show, called Selamat Malam Sobat Migran, targets the city's 133,000 Indonesian residents, the majority of whom are domestic helpers, and helps them with topics ranging from legal advice on their immigration status to health tips, such as which foods to eat at night to help them work and fast all day during Ramadan. The hosts also debate current issues in Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Sunarni Malone, who hosts the show, said she did not know anything about the turmoil within DBC. 'It will be sad for Hong Kong if we ever have to stop the programmes on Digital We,' she said. 'We just started and it is going so well.

'We speak to the domestic helpers in their own language and they feel closer to us and closer to home.'

Another Bahasa Indonesian show, Kumpul Bareng, goes out on Sundays from 10pm. The Nepali community can tune in online to Namaste! every Monday and Tuesday at 7pm, while Radyo Migrante caters to the Filipino population.

There are no exact audience figures for Digital We's 13 shows. 'We rely on Facebook for that,' said Eric Lean, the channel's head. The station, based at Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam, has a Facebook page for each show.

Kumpul Bareng has 608 'likes,' while Nepali Swor, a Sunday show in Nepali, has 1,290. DBC has a free Smartphone application covering all of its seven stations - the rest are broadcast in Cantonese. It has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, according to Lean.

'I feel we make a difference,' said Milone, who also runs a beauty salon in Causeway Bay. 'We always get a positive reaction from the community.'