Lithuanian public prosecutor investigates story thanks to local radio station
Lithuanian radio station, Radio FM99, a partner of the EFJ-led Local Media 4 Democracy (LM4D) project, published a story about a development plan that would destroy the historical heritage of Alytus. The story gained traction and the Prosecutors’ Office opened an investigation into the plan. All of this was funded by the LM4D and the radio benefited from the mentorship by the project. We talk to Vilija Ramanauskiene, journalist at Radio FM99, to find out more.
Radio FM99 is a legacy radio outlet in South Lithuania and one of the first commercial radio stations in independent Lithuania. This year, it is celebrating its 30th anniversary by gifting its staff support from the Local Media 4 Democracy (LM4D) project – and a good story to go with it.
“The project was well-timed and a good direction for us,” said Vilija Ramanauskiene, Journalist and Podcast Editor at Radio FM99. Ramanauskiene was talking from a busy Brussels airport, after attending the European Week of Regions and Cities and returning to her home in Alytus, Lithuania.
Moments after signing the contract for the LM4D project, a local story about a fast-tracked, unpopular development plan in Alytus fell onto their laps.
An opposition politician phoned Ramanauskiene with news he heard from the town hall meeting. On September 11, the radio aired and published a story about the urban development plan which would destroy the historical part of Alytus and which the local citizens strongly opposed. However, the city administration supported the developers. Based on the radio’s report, the Kaunas Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into the development plan.
Radio FM99 followed-up by publishing an interview with the prosecutor’s office representative, who explained how the office started this investigation, why it is of public interest, and other information about public prosecution.
All of this content was produced and distributed with LM4D support.
“With the mentorship [given by the LM4D project] we were able to create tools to monitor audience impact… My hope is that they [the staff] get used to it and this way of working becomes normalised.” – Vilija Ramanauskiene, Radio FM99.
During an interview with the EFJ, Ramanauskiene also explained the internal and external challenges that Radio FM99 faces. The political situation in Alytus recently changed for the worse, as all public institutions are currently controlled by the same party (LSPD). Many media outlets in Lithuania are controlled by political parties, while online portals tend to only have one or two employees.
With 30 years of radio shows behind it, Radio FM99 has welcomed 90 journalists, many of whom moved on to Vilnius after receiving training. At the moment, the radio does not have the capacity to hire more staff despite the small team and high ambitions.
Nonetheless, the team of journalists attract massive trust from their listeners since they all come from Alytus, know the people and are active citizens. This legacy media has continued to live on since it can depend on a core group of people to give them support. Meanwhile, as the world has become truly digital, they also adapted and diversified their revenue streams to offer not only radio shows, but also podcasts, YouTube content, investigative journalism and more.
The LM4D project gave them the opportunity to better serve their local community with critical reporting and improved outreach with their community through new channels.They have attracted an additional reporter and will deliver content on Alytus such as podcasts, YouTube videos and segments in the morning show. You can read more about their exciting project ideas here.
For independent media to compete fairly in a sector either dominated by government-funded media outlets or media conglomerates, sustainable models for financing media outlets is essential. The LocalMedia4Democracy project, carried out by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Journalismfund Europe, Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) and International Media Support (IMS), is intended to fill this gap. These organisations are undertaking a multifaceted programme to help struggling local, regional and community media in the news desert areas in Europe, by providing financial support, organisational capacity building, and conducting research mapping the situation on the ground.
The project has received financial support from the European Commission.