BBC World Service Trust literacy projects in Africa have been bolstered by the launch of the Radio Amnesty campaign. BBC radio and TV stations, radio manufacturers and high-street retailers have banded together to offer listeners a 10 per cent discount on new digital radios when they trade in their old analogue models at branches of Dixons, Currys, Comet or John Lewis.
The radios will be reconditioned by an independent retailer and then distributed by the World Service Trust to villagers in southern Sudan and Somalia as part of the Radio Teacher educational project. Radio Teacher offers literacy and educational courses broadcast through the BBC World Service to Somali villagers who have no other chance of schooling. The trust plans to extend the scheme to Sudan.
Radio Amnesty, launched on the first day of the G8 summit, capitalises on the current public and media interest in Africa. It runs until 26 July, during which time the campaign will receive airtime on Radio 5 Live and BBC television.
Nick Knowles, who worked with Comic and Sport Relief and is most famous for the TV series DIY SOS, is fronting the campaign and has lent his voice to the radio trails.
Four digital radio manufacturers are on board: Roberts Radio, Pure Digital, Sony and Panasonic. Roberts, a market leader in DAB (digital audio broadcasting) radios, has published full-page advertisements, created by agency HDM, in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, featuring an ear in the shape of Africa. Participating UK retailers will use posters and stalls to publicise the campaign.
Anna da Silva, project manager for the BBC World Service Trust for Africa, said the campaign is a spin-off from the BBC digital team's broader initiative to get listeners to convert from analogue. "They didn't want to waste the radios that were traded in, so I had to decide which project would benefit most from them," she said. "There's a clear cause-and-effect line here - if you hand your radio in to Dixons, you can help farmers in Somalia.
"Learning to read and write through the radio may sound counterintuitive, but we've had some extraordinary results," she added.
Simon Nelson, controller of BBC Radio and Music Interactive, said: "Everyone involved benefits from this initiative: consumers get a discount and it all helps to support some of the fantastic work the World Service Trust is doing in Africa."