IMPROVING COMMUNICATION WITH CRISIS-AFFECTED COMMUNITIES
Radio is the most popular and influential channel of communication in Niger.
A BBC World Service media audience survey in 2008 showed that 67% of adults listened to the radio at least once a week.
However, only 17% watched TV on a weekly basis.
Most people listen to radio at home, sometimes in a group.
The BBC World Service audience survey found that 9% of adults listened to the radio on their mobile phones.
The peak listening periods are in the early morning and evening.
Four out of ten adults listen to 30 minutes of news per day, according to the BBC survey.
It indicated that Nigeriens are primarily interested in local rather than African or global news.
Dramas and programmes that focus on local and family issues are also popular.
Voix du Sahel, the state radio network, has the widest reach and commands the biggest audience. It has 36 FM relay stations across the country.
There are also about 20 private commercial radio stations and up to 129 community radio stations scattered across the country.
Not all of the community stations are operating. In August 2011 media sources said about 30 were off air as a result of technical problems and financial difficulties.
Research by the US embassy in Niamey in 2011 indicated that the state radio network Voix du Sahel reaches seven million people across Niger.
It also showed that 52% of adults tune in regularly to its programmes.
Voix du Sahel produces national network programming in Niamey.
Its eight regional FM radio stations in Niamey and seven other cities around the country broadcast four or five hours per day of regional programming, most of it in local languages.
They relay national network programming during the rest of the day.
La Voix du Sahel operates regional FM radio stations in:
The BBC Hausa Service is the second most popular radio station at a national level.
It attracts 3.6 million listeners daily, according to BBC World Service research.
The BBC Hausa service can be received nationwide on Short Wave.
However, most Nigeriens listen to its programmes on privately owned FM stations such as Anfani, Sarraounia, R&M and Radio Sahara, which relay its broadcasts.
A BBC World Service audience survey found that most listeners to its Hausa service in Niger were young employed rural males.
In urban areas, private FM stations which play African and Nigerien music are very popular.
Five private commercial FM radio stations based in Niamey have studios and FM relay stations in one or more other cities. These are Anfani, Sarraounia, Alternative, Tenere and Tambara.
Although most private commercial radio stations are based in the capital, there are also private radio stations based in Agadez, Diffa, Gaya, Dosso, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillaberi and Zinder.
Anfani is the largest private radio station in Niger. It claims a nationwide audience of up to one million.
However, the only Niamey-based radio stations able to reach the remote north of Niger are La Voix du Sahel, Tenere and Alternative.
Community radio stations have mushroomed since the first one was set up at Bankilare in Tillabery region near the border with Burkina Faso, in 1999.
The community radios often serve outlying towns and villages which struggle to pick up other stations.
Many of them simply consist of a radio-in-a- box kit set up in a one or two roomed mud house.
Most have a low-powered 50 to 100-watt FM transmitter mounted on a 20 to 30 metre high mast.
Their signal can usually be heard within a radius of 10 to 50 km.
The community radio stations are only on air at set times for a few hours per day.
Some only broadcast on selected days each week.
In many outlying districts, where there is no mains electricity, the radio stations are powered by solar panels.
A large number of community radio stations were set up with financial support from international aid agencies such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Dutch development organisation SNV, UNICEF, USAID and Africare.
Dozens of community radio stations were launched between 2000 and 2005 with the support of a donor-financed project called the Rural Radio Network (RURANET).
This provided funding and technical assistance for the setting up of solar-powered community radio stations with low powered transmitters.
RURANET also supplied these stations with World Space receivers that enabled them to capture and relay the programmes of La Voix du Sahel and international radio stations that broadcast by satellite.
In addition, RURANET helped community radio stations to exchange among themselves the programmes that they produced.
RURANET has been inactive since 2005.
The supervision and development of community radio stations is now undertaken by a less dynamic body called the Coordination Nationale des Radios Communautaires (National Coordinating Committee for Community Radio Stations).
Many community radio stations struggled to survive financially after their initial start-up funding ran out. Typically, they were only supported by a sponsoring donor for their first two years of operation.
After that, many suffered from an exodus of trained staff. The presenters and technicians often left in search of paid work elsewhere.
Today, most of these small radio stations have become dependent on strong figures in the local community who continue to make and present programmes out of goodwill and social commitment, even though they are no longer paid.
None of the community radio stations receive any funding from central government.
However, many of them earn revenue from broadcasting sponsored programmes on behalf of international aid agencies such as UNICEF.
These sponsored programmes often deal with health care, education and women’s issues. Some are ready-made recordings. Others are locally produced programmes on a particular topic.
The latter often incorporate drama sketches performed by local theatre groups and discussions with local people.
The popularity of community radio stations depends partly on where they are located and what other radio listening alternatives are available.
In large towns many people prefer to listen to La Voix du Sahel and private commercial stations because they give international news and have a wider selection of music.
But in remote rural areas, the local community radio station is often seen as a lifeline and its broadcasts are closely followed by everyone.
Community radio stations are distributed fairly evenly across southern Niger, but there are only a handful of them in the sparsely populated north.
In August 2011, officials of the National Coordinating Committee for Community Radio Stations said that up to 30 community radio stations in Niger might not be functioning.
Nonetheless, community radio stations are still one of the most fundamental and popular communications tools in Niger.
They are staffed by familiar and trusted figures in the community, most of whom are volunteers.
In 2011, the US media development NGO Equal Access was working to help improve the output of 23 community radio stations.
Half of these were located in the Tahoua administrative region. The others were in the Maradi, Zinder, Agadez and Niamey administrative regions.
Equal Access produces a special series of weekly programmes with a social message, carries out training and provides a support network for journalists working on community radio stations.
It singled out the radio stations in Abalak and Illela in Tahoua region as being particularly successful.
The National Coordinating Committee for Community Radio Stations lacks direct engagement with most of its affiliated stations.
This is partly due to a chronic lack of funding. Instead, it uses a network of eight regional coordinators to liaise directly with individual radio stations.
Many community radios are based in remote locations without a phone. Regional coordinators have to drive through the desert on a motorbike to reach them.
There is some confusion about the exact number of community radio stations.
The National Coordinating Committee for Community Radio stations said in August 2011 that there were 129 stations, but only 102 names appear on its published list.
The Office National de Communication (ONC), the government body which is responsible for allocating radio frequencies, listed 120 community stations in June 2011. However, it said that not all of them had been authorised to broadcast.
The number actually on air in August 2011 appeared to about 100.
Individual community radios can be contacted directly or through the regional coordinators of the National Coordinating Committee for Community Radio Stations. These are:
Coordinator - M. Halirou
Mob: +227 90 50 07 11
Address: Rue de le 2eme Pharmacie, Niamey
Coordinator - Hamid Al-Haq
Mob: +227 96 20 04 20
Coordinator - Fadayi Mohammedu
Mob: +227 96 50 6967
Coordinator - Barham Abubakar
Mob: +227 96 59 00 62
Coordinator - Issif Chaibou
Mob: +227 96 46 04 09
Coordinator - Abdulatif Mohammed
Mob: +227 96 02 20 08
Coordinator - Moussa Hassan
Mob: +227 96 08 35 42
Coordinator Abas Ba Tcheri
Mob: +227 96 53 48 62
Locations with functioning community radio stations (June 2011)
Sources: Office National de Communications (ONC), Community Radio Station Steering Committee, Equal Access.
NB: The spelling of place names may vary from those shown here.
1- Agadez – Alternative 99.4 FM
6- RTA (Route Tahoua-Arlit?)
8- Tiguidan Taguette
9- Tiguidan Tassoum
6- Maine Soroua
5- Dan Kassari
6- Dogon Kirya
9- Garanke Dey
11- Kara Kara
12- Kargui Bongou
8- Guiden Roumdji
12- Sarkin Haoussa
1. Niamey - Radio Alternative 99.4 FM
2. Niamey - Boukoki 99.0 FM (Boukoki suburb of Niamey)
3. Niamey - Radio Jeunesse 98.6 FM (Goudel suburb of Niamey)
2- Abalak Mairoua
1- Agoudou Fouga
8- Garbey Krou
13- Kona Bangou
3- Damagram Takaya
4- Dan Barto
5- Dogo Dogo
18- Zinder – Alternative 99.4 FM