ROOTS FM is the first urban-based community radio station in the English speaking Caribbean. It was launched by Mustard Seed Communities’ on May 25, 1998 with the gift of a 20-watt solar-powered transmitter and basic studio equipment from UNESCO.
Mustard Seed Communities’ are homes for children born with severe physical and mental disabilities and children born with HIV/AIDS. It is a not-for-profit founded by Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon in 1978. The organization – which started as one small home in the poor community of Mona Commons – has expanded to include 10 homes across Jamaica as well as care missions in Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and Dominican Republic.
In 1989, following the destruction wrought by two major forces of nature – a fire and a hurricane – Mustard Seed relocated to the inner city community of Olympic Way, where its headquarters is still located today. Over the next few years, Monsignor Ramkissoon (then “Father”), actively pursued his vision of “people empowerment” – the philosophy that by giving residents easy access to the information they need, they will be enabled to make better decisions about the quality of their lives. Consultations with residents revealed overwhelming support for a radio station and the citizens themselves coined the name ROOTS with the accompanying slogan: the “Voice of the Inner city”.
Supported by a cast of media professionals and experts, Mustard Seed actively campaigned for a commercial unrestricted radio license, arguing that without the ability to sell advertising, the station would be unable to sustain its operations. The battle was long and arduous because it challenged the status quo of awarding noncommercial restricted radio licenses to community radio in Jamaica. But the team firmly maintained its position and a commercial broadcasting license was awarded to Mustard Seed Communities in 1997. The following year, ROOTS began its 24 hour daily service to listeners in Kingston and St. Andrew.
ROOTS 96.1 FM resides in the heart of the communities of Kingston and St. Andrew, and serves a population of approximately 400,000 residents. Over the years we have maintained strong ties with dedicated listeners who actively participate in programming.
The station’s main objectives are:
To work with the people of depressed inner city communities to alleviate poverty by providing information needs for spiritual, social and economic development and, to foster positive collaborations
between Mustard Seed and other community organizations active within the communities of Kingston and St. Andrew.
In 2001, Mustard Seed Communities’, -again with the support of UNESCO – launched the inner city’s first internet café suitably named Zinc Link. A tribute to its original structure. The centre is fully equipped with 15 work stations and distance education/video conferencing facilities. It is a space for children to do homework research, while adults use the photocopying and printing serves and attend skills development classes. In 2014, Zinc Link received a major capital investment for retooling from the government’s Universal Service Fund.
ROOTS FM TODAY
ROOTS FM survives the economic challenges and realities of community media by finding creative ways to stay relevant. In the years since its formation, community priorities have shifted from political tensions, associated killings and restricted movement. Now the pressing concerns are dysfunctional graduates, sexual exploitation and violence against boys and girls, poor parenting, teenage pregnancies and unhealthy sanitation practices. Through stakeholder collaboration and a participatory approach, ROOTS sets out to develop a schedule of programmes that reflect the people’s perspectives and alternate solutions.
ROOTS has upgraded its first 20 watt transmitter located at its studios at 1 Mahoe Drive in Kingston, to a 350 watt transmitter located in the hills of Peter’s Rock, St. Andrew. This has significantly increased coverage within the licensed broadcast area.
The station’s day-to-day operations are coordinated by a small team of full time coordinators and 24-hour programming is produced by approximately 20 volunteers. An Advisory Board led by a Board Chairman takes the lead on matters related to policy. Board members are volunteer experts in the areas of radio, education, community development, business and fundraising.
Lean economic times and hurricanes have challenged the consistent delivery of quality programmes, but the team of committed volunteers and staff, have kept us on air. Even through life threatening violence, our team has been there. From offering a word of prayer to advising children how to protect themselves from sexual predators, the station is an oasis of hope in the inner city.
A national media survey in 2015 indicates that ROOTS FM is listened to by approximately 20,000 listeners in Kingston and St. Andrew. Income is generated through a combination of paid programmes; advertising sales; fundraising events and donations.
ROOTS FM Mission Statement
To become a sustainable community radio station, an effective outreach instrument of Mustard Seed Communities, an agent of change through high standards of broadcasting, addressing inner-city community marginalization and challenges of inter-generational poverty through the empowerment of people.
MUSTARD SEED COMMUNITIES’ MISSION STATEMENT
Inspired by the healing and caring Ministry of Jesus Christ, we aim through the positive interaction of caring, sharing and training, to uplift the most vulnerable members of society, especially handicapped and abandoned children, and marginalized communities. We are committed to the fostering of homes and communities, which will lead us all to loving service and mutual respect and which will bring us joy, hope and dignity.
The station operates with a small, full-time team, which coordinates the daily activities in four core areas:
- Administration and sales;
- Production and Programmes ;
- Technical Services
Coordinators are responsible for organizing the work and productivity of volunteers assigned to each area.
ROOTS FM subscribes to a consensus driven management style, in which staff, volunteers, listeners and community groups are considered stakeholders for development. Programming decisions are arrived at after consultation with key groups. Decision making and feedback mechanisms include:
- Bi-monthly staff & volunteer meeting;
- Bi-weekly coordinators planning;
- Bi-yearly focus group discussions;
- Bi-yearly volunteers assessment;
- Quarterly advisory board meetings
ROOTS FM broadcasts music and knowledge based programmes aligned to its mission statement. In keeping with the universal guiding principles of community radio, we are committed to delivering programmes that send positive messages to enrich the lives of citizens. The focus is on giving a voice to the voice-less, and we encourage programme hosts to include real life teaching stories and voices from the community as often as possible. In selecting music, choose songs that elevate hope, peace, justice and unity. Whenever you can, play quality original music created in our communities.
- Categories of Programmes
ROOTS FM operates a weekly schedule of programmes with fixed segments ranging from one to six hours. Each segment is hosted by staff or volunteers with prior agreements about content and structure. Within a segment there may be several live or recorded features which the host is required to air as written on the programme log.
Features and programmes may fall into the categories of paid; sponsored or non-sponsored. All categories must conform to Jamaican broadcast regulations as laid out in the Broadcasting and Rediffusion Act, as well as the operational policies of ROOTS FM/Mustard Seed Communities.