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Karachi University's FM radio station still a dream

KARACHI, Oct 12: The FM radio station project of the University of Karachi, a brainchild of the Department of Mass Communication, is not likely to see much progress any time soon, it emerged on Thursday.

While the station obtained a licence in 2006, it has not yet gone on air. The Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority has served a notice on the KU, warning it to complete the project soon or lose the licence.

What has been done by the administration is that they have asked Pemra for time till January 2008, saying that the building that was supposed to have been completed by now is still under construction.

"January is round the corner, but the project is nowhere near completion," remarked an expert. The committee set up to look after the matter includes Prof Inam Bari (project manager), Dr Shamsuddin, Dr Fauzia Jaffary, Dr Tahir Masood and Prof Mahmood Alvi.

When earlier contacted a member of the FM station committee, he said it would take a month to launch the station. However, after a month, the statement was altered and this reporter was informed that the station's launch would take two to three more months.

The station is said to have already had a test transmission. Interestingly, the building of the Institute of Mass Communication has taken a far longer time than an ordinary building, more than 15 years. Reports also say that despite millions of rupees that have been spent on the project, development work on it has come to a standstill.

"The IMC project was initiated in 1992, when the Dr Feroze Ahmed Trust wanted to donate money to the KU for its ongoing projects. When the chairperson of the trust, Nadra Feroze, came to know of it she donated Rs10m for the project," says project manager Prof Inam Bari. Afterwards the project received Rs500,000 and Rs1 million separately from the government, he says.

It was in 2005 that the HEC took an interest in the radio project and approved a grant of Rs10m for it. The equipment has been bought and is gathering dust waiting for the completion of the IMC building. "The main problem that we face is that of electricity. The wiring has not been properly done," says Prof Bari.

There have been quite a few hiccups in the project. One of the main problems was that of the contractor. "The contractor of the building delayed the project and stopped working on it. It took us a lot of time to sort things out," he says. Eventually the university administration decided to give the project to its engineer. And eventually the project was divided into bits and has been given to several contractors.

An insider says: "There is a slim chance of the completion of this project. People like Sarwar Naseem who were interested in the project are no longer here to look after it." Furthermore, the source says there are two main reasons for the project's inordinate delay. "Water supply and electricity are the major issues they have to deal with." Moreover, the programmes have not been chalked out as such, he says. "What they did in the test transmission was to come up with a hotchpotch of programmes, whereas it needs serious brainstorming."

Despite the fact that students have been trained by Radio Pakistan to run the FM station, no one knows for sure if the station will be launched before it gets another notice from Pemra. Apart from mass communication students, there is hardly a soul, be it teachers or students, who even knows about the KU's FM station or if its test transmission was ever carried out. The committee claims that its transmission was received in most parts of Karachi. Dawn

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