Radio Libre celebrates today 25 years of institutional life, building, from the word, a democratic space. Referents of national and international culture, from Augusto Roa Bastos to Rubén Bareiro Saguier, have left long and enriching interviews throughout these years.
Why did you decide to open the radio?
Democracy had spent 8 years in the midst of attempts to return to the authoritarian model, a lack of clarity of concepts, a confusion that fell into debauchery and at the end of the century that was moving towards a globalizing model whose meaning we did not understand very well but we were being swept away by their logic. We said: we are going to contribute a new language from the Radio, without grievances or insults, nothing that ends up being anyone’s dunghill. We said: let’s raise the bar and open the windows to the world with agreements with 7 international broadcasters. We got to broadcast in English and French. We wanted to leave the testimony that a radio that embraces culture could help democracy make sense and freedom a transcendent value. That was what motivated us to open the radio in September 1997.
What was the goal?
Open ourselves to a new way of understanding ourselves. In diversity but seeking consensus in dialogue that enriches and strengthens us in the other. We understood that without a democratic experience, understanding communication as a dynamic factor would help the country achieve its goals. Identifying problems and helping to solve them. Dewey’s logic that community plus communication was equal to democracy we put into practice. In this process, we do not renounce the strengthening of our own identity. We never stopped having programs in Guarani and widely disseminating our music. Perhaps challenged by our Christian roots, which in the parable of the talents said that at the end of time they would ask us what we had done with the virtues they gave us, we wanted to demonstrate that a Radio respectful of the word, that believed in and respected the ideas of the others and at the same time reinforce our national identity was possible. Many did not give us more than a few months to live, but we are celebrating a quarter of a century, which seems to us to be a great success of the model.
How did Radio Libre start and how is it today?
From the revaluation of the word we show that a different radio was possible and that Paraguay was ready for such an option. A means of communication is due to an idea and a community that shares the offer that is offered. One thing does not go without the other. Building an audience is the result of a host of virtues. Reliability, commitment and responsibility are part of the shared things that allow an audience to grow and become stronger. We have created listener councils, promoted literary contests in the country and in the world, awarded scholarships to young talents from universities, broadcast live cultural events and lived from the community the dream of a democratic country in freedom. The Japanese say that a company is received from such after 20 years. That happens to us in this first quarter of a century. We feel reciprocated by the audience and sponsors in the type of station that we have built together.
Is the goal still the same as it was 25 years ago?
Yes and something else. Seek to excite young audiences who recover the verb, the word as a factor that allows us to understand each other and build common spaces. There are new challenges with the available technologies. We are not alone and new actors emerge. But the radio in Paraguay is still alive in spite of everything, perhaps because in the very human essence the word defines our condition as living beings. The radio field requires updating its offer always and demands the capacity of those who are in front of a microphone to build audiences that care and deal with the great national issues. The amplitude modulated radio stations in this sense are very much alive and present as the urgency of the verb itself.
Looking back, how do you see radio 25 years later?
More excited on one side and more agitated on the other. I hear many young people interested in posting messages that motivate but at the same time very concerned about the return of audiences through social networks. They are like recent lovers who hope that the magic will not break but end up getting the opposite. I think that in radio communication there is a lot of magic, spell, knowledge and commitment. That is the alchemy that generates audiences. Describing reality only with words is a tremendous challenge for broadcasters around the world. That sense of radio in this quarter of a century of Libre is one of enormous frenzy, a very early disenchantment and the urgent need to divide times and realities.
Any anecdote you remember?
Many and I would say that something happens every day that enters as a condiment for the spoken liturgy, like when a first-time communicator introduced a well-known singer named Juan B. Mora as Juan Buey Mora! When I told him where he got that from, he told me that a friend gave him the information that it meant the B because he had been involved in a case of cattle rustling. A huge piece of paper.
What is the role of Radio Libre in pursuit of democracy in Paraguay?
We have helped to go from the status of idiots to that of citizens. This year before the internal elections in December and in the run-up to the national elections of 2023 we have called all this time as: “year of citizenship” where we emphasize the transcendent role of the constituents over the leaders. The government resembles the people who elect it. If we do not learn to vote, control and denounce, we will continue with a low-intensity democracy that is exhausted in the liturgy of the vote but lacks the gospel.
Any message you want to share with our readers?
That we are surprised by the success of Radio Libre as an idea first and as a proposal developed later. We have proven that Paraguay deserves a station like ours, that can enjoy it and enrich itself in its daily programs. We are a voice that emerged from the darkness to illuminate a destiny.