In the recent past Rwanda has registered an increase in the number of private radio stations which factor has greatly changed the terrain of operation; leaving some formerly highly listened to stations crying in the face of competition while others changing the game rules to fare well in the stiffening business terrain.
Since the onset of private radio broadcasting in Rwanda in 2004, which was spearheaded by pioneers like Contact fm, Flash fm, City radio, Radio 10 and Radio Maria, there have been numerous changes in the terrain throwing out some of the most listened to stations while others having to fight to continue surviving.
However in a recent mini survey, it was clear that giants like Radio Rwanda (now under Rwanda Broadcasting Agency) have managed to fair well with the recent competition.
Among the private broadcasters Flash Fm was identified by listeners as their preferred choice.
For a period of six months pushed by the fact that it is close to nine years since the a nationwide listenership survey was conducted, 2735 respondents were sampled from four provinces and the city of Kigali; with 21 districts represented.
Radio Rwanda appeared as the most preferred station with 973 while Flash Fm seconded it with 837. Radio Salus, Kfm and radio Isango followed with 434, 349 and 314 respectively.
Explaining radio Flash’s increase in listenership, the participants identified wide reach of its signals which can be received almost everywhere in the country, enabling many people to tune in.
Also, the radio’s programming was said to be responsible for increased listenership.
“The content, they said, is oftentimes local and broadcast entirely in Kinyarwanda allowing most rural folks to follow freely,” Mukamusoni Athanasie from Rulindo offered.
The contrary seemed to hold true for other historical radios with former loyal listeners, who admitted that poor signals and limited reach were dooming the former.
“I was a great fan of radio Salus but it failed me. It used to have very good stories, critical analyses and great programming but all of a sudden after 2010, the radio started collapsing; at times on or off”, Maniriho Anaclet noted.
Maniriho further noted that when Salus’s unending cut offs became rampant and never ceasing, he found himself slowly shifting and finding a new loyalty, adding to Flash’s count.
He noted that his current radio of choice has good reporters who give life to many of the stories that would otherwise be treated trivial despite their importance to the audience.
According to Flash Fm’s Proprietor and Managing Director Louis Kamanzi, the radio is making efforts to continue improving.
“We are striving to improve programming which is the major factor that makes us loved. Our news is evidently the most liked program thus we are laying emphasis on covering stories from across the country such that every Rwandan, irrespective of where they are, notices their story being told and subsequently heard”, Kamanzi shared.
The last detailed Survey, the Rwanda Audience Survey, was conducted by the Media High Council (MHC) in 2005 making it outdated to authoritatively describe present day realities in the communication industry, especially radio.
For instance since then, there have been numerous entrants into the sector. Currently radios in Rwanda are counted to be in excess of 30.
Recent entrants into the radio business include Nation Media Group’s Kfm, Radio One, Isango Star among others.
However many of the freshers remain most listened to in Kigali with limited outreach in other parts of the country, a factor greatly affecting their listenership in other parts of the country.
According to a source in the MHC, the need to have another survey to detail the outreach of private radios, and other media, and thus facilitate in the planning processes for communication not only of government but also of private entities is high, adding that the procedures are already underway.
“A competent firm to carry out this survey is being sought after. Upon establishing the suitable actor, the MHC will commission the survey in order to establish not only listenership in radios but also of other media channels, print, TV and online which too have witnessed high growth since the last survey”.
According to the Non-Government Organisation, Search for Common Ground, which carried out an extensive media survey in 2009 to establish the outreach of media channels in Rwanda, “it is time that another round of survey be carried out.”