Why are FM Radios Concentrated in Kigali City?

FM Radio stations are battling for audiences but acquiring transmitters is very expensive

Residents of Kigali city have more radio stations to choose from compared to their counterparts in the four provinces.

New statistics released by Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA) indicate that more FM radio stations have remained concentrated within Kigali city as a result of having few transmitters leaving the biggest share to the public broadcaster- Radio Rwanda covers more places.

Radio Rwanda which is the oldest and public broadcaster retains the biggest coverage at 98% with 25 transmitters spread across the country. It is followed by Radio Maria- a catholic church based station which has 80% reach with four transmitters.

Radio Flash FM, KT Radio, hold the third, fourth places with 70% coverage on three transmitters respectively, while Radio Salus is in the fifth position with 65% on two transmitters, according to the 2016 statistics released recently.

The concentration of radios on Kigali based transmitters is said to be partly caused by lack of capacity to finance installation of private antennas. Most of the local radio stations are compelled to rent from space from the existing antennas owned by Radio Rwanda.

It costs about €50.000 to install a new transmitter on existing antennas and about Rwf20million to rent space annually. These costs, though high, remain a necessity for some radio stations to remain in business.

Prosper Bitembeka, the KT Radio Manager says the low coverage doesn’t necessarily mean a small audience but the range of coverage has an influence on advertising prospects and thus a need to have more transmitters to stay in business.

“We are planning on having more two transmitters by next year 2017, to increase the coverage, and thus, the audience. We have good content in news and we cover the whole country,” Bitembeka said.

In 2017, he said, the company will have two transmitters in Karongi to serve a part of Western Province and the nearing Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Another transmitter will be put in Mugogo-Nyabihu district to serve the audience from North and West.

Other transmitters serving KT Radio include the one in Huye for Southern Province and the neighbouring Burundi, Nyarupfubire in Nyagatare for the Eastern province, some parts of Uganda and Tanzania.

Rebero transmitter caters for Kigali and neighbouring audiences. Bitembeka estimates the KT Radio coverage to reach 85-90% next year.

Though coverage doesn’t imply audience automatically, radio managers also say the coverage has influenced the number of advertisers and this can affect radio business when it comes to choice on basis of outreach and target audience.

They also say that RURA should do a comprehensive research on the numbers of audiences reached by each station to give them a comparative advantage to stay in advertising business.

Most of them currently gauge listenership through feedback on incoming calls and social media reactions to their content.

“The first thing that advertisers ask for is radio coverage. Their choice of advertising is determined by these statistics. But we would like substantial research on audiences so that we can use it to market our business,” Bitembeka said.

Gonza Muganwa, the Secretary General of ARJ says this technical picture is good and can be resourceful in investment decisions to expand ones business and also give a clear picture for investment opportunities in the media but it should not totally inform ones decision to advertise.

The concentration of radios in Kigali remains a concern to the Rwanda Journalist Association (ARJ) though research findings are good for local radio business to gauge their stand and a clear picture on the technical reach.

“Our desire is to have media reach all communities and this will require mobilization of resources at national level. In the meantime we would like to encourage radios to syndicate popular content between each other to reach many” Muganwa told KT Press.   




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