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Bill Siemering

Developing Radio Partners
Purpose Prize Fellow 2008

Strengthening community radio to help developing countries

As a founding board member of National Public Radio and creator of All Things Considered, NPR’s first news program, Bill Siemering understood that local radio stations could change lives and improve society. But his travels in developing countries showed him that existing assistance programs short-changed the small stations that could best do the job. At age 70, Siemering founded Developing Radio Partners (DRP) to support and train community radio broadcasters in developing countries. In areas where illiteracy is high, local radio stations reach nearly everyone. They can promote healthy practices, good governance, environmental conservation, peace-building and better lives for women and young people. But they are chronically under-funded, often operating with transient volunteers and under charged political conditions. Siemering’s DRP offers training in journalism and management; fosters associations to help stations engage as a group with key stakeholders; and operates a network for program exchange that gives each small station a larger audience. He is also promoting the use of text messaging with radio to improve citizen engagement. Siemering’s work has already supported balanced election coverage in Sierra Leone that led to 75.8 percent voter turnout and fair elections, and has empowered herders in Mongolia to add their voices to the public forum. “What other social investment can have a broader reach or affect more lives than an engaging local radio station?”