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Community Radio Comes to Borneo

Jim Ellinger with Temporary Bamboo Radio Tower (Photo: Jim Ellinger)

Jim Ellinger of Austin Airwaves wrote with exciting news about a community radio station that he’s helping to launch along with RadioActive Radio in Borneo. Apparently the first community-run radio station in Malaysia, Radio Bario launched two weeks ago over the FM airwaves in the central highlands of Borneo.

Yesterday Ellinger reported that the station has “been on the air two weeks, with few problems. Still waiting on steel pipe/tower to double coverage area from about 800 Kelabit members to maybe a thousand. Interestingly, as many or more folks listen on their mobile phones as over the air.”

On Wednesday Ellinger gave a bit of background about the location and early programming on Radio Bario:

“Radio Bario has now been on the air for ten days at fifty watts strong. Serving the Heart of Borneo in this extremely remote locale. Only 800 folks in village, similar number of indigenous hunter/farmer communities in nearby valleys. B-casting about 8 hours a day on solar power. PC-based station brought in by London’s RadioActive group. First Team just flew out, leaving, um, me, as sole trainer…

Their temp tower is made out of BAMBOO! I will be leading a crew to building a 20′ steel pipe tower, at the top of a 100′ hill behind studio, in the middle of a pineapple grove, this week. Signal was ‘moved’ by gov’t to 94.0 from 94.5 to avoid reaching Indonesia, about a six hour walk from here. Again, no roads. All programming in Kelabit language.

Bamboo Radio Tower in Borneo (Photo: Jim Ellinger)

Curiously, American country/western music is their 1st choice. Kinda corny to my Austin-taeous (sp?) ears.

Cheatin’ hearts, lonely women, drinkin’ and pick up trucks fill the airwaves.

Some of the older songs, of the June Carter/Family genre, would be the very same that were b-cast on the world’s first ‘mass media,’ the legendary X stations along the Tex/Mex border. Go figure.

In someways the region is sorta’ Texas-like; rural, pick ups, construction/farm workers…if Texas was a dense jungle.



Radio Bario 94FM”

Ellinger has worked on numerous community radio projects all over the world. He helped out in Haiti following their major earthquake in 2010, worked on AstroDome Radio following Hurricane Katrina, and has also been to Ghana and Panama on radio missions. He was slated to go to Thailand next for a Community Radio Forum, but that has been cancelled due to massive flooding in Bangkok.


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3 Responses to Community Radio Comes to Borneo

  1. klewis October 31, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    way to go, jim!

  2. Rev Jim November 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Good to see ‘Radio Jim ” getting some much appreciated publicity .Jim has done more to promote community/public radio worldwide than anyone I know.And though the article doesn’t mention it there is a “donate” button on the Austin Airwaves website .Donations are tough in this economy ,I know Jim would appreciate even the smallest.

  3. John Goslino November 10, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    Rather than give ‘Radio Jim’ a donation, why not buy a useful gift for your favorite community radio station or specifically, Radio Airwaves in Borneo, such as the unique book Participative Marketing for Local Radio written by Dennis List (there is also a version in Bahasa Indonesian) that teaches local and community based radio how to market effectively to secure an audience, create a solid income base and earn the respect of the community, refer to

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