Chad Radio: The Key to Communicating with Chadians

Radio: The Key to Communicating with Chadians

The state of mass media in Chad is influenced by the lack of a telecommunications and transportation infrastructure, among other factors. As a result, radio is the dominant information medium. In a society where a majority of the population lives on the subsistence level, there is little disposable income to purchase a television, satellite service or even a weekly newspaper. In order to better understand how to reach Chadians through radio, one must understand that the key players within Chad’s radio market fit into three groups; state-run stations, private stations operated by commercial enterprises or by nongovernmental organizations, and international broadcasters. Each of these groups of stations plays a different role in different geographic regions or provinces in Chad.

For a regional breakdown of media outlets in Chad see here.

Overall Chad’s radio market is dominated by its only domestic radio station with national-level coverage, the state-operated Radiodiffusion Nationale Tchadienne (RNT). RNT broadcasts through both shortwave and two FM-transmitters located in N’Djamena, the country’s capital, and Sarh, in southern Chad. All other stations with national coverage are international broadcasters, such as Radio France International and BBC Radio. Both of these broadcasters have a strong presence throughout much of the country.

An Area of Competition

Most of the competition between RNT and privately operated stations, which number around a dozen, is within Chad’s southern and southwestern regions. These private stations are supported by a variety of institutions -- some stations are commercial while others are run by religious institutions or nonprofits. This area of Chad is relatively better off economically and hosts the capital N’Djamena, along with other urban centers such as the provincial capital Sarh in the Moyen-Chari province. Due to the regions’ greater economic stability, it is better able to support radio stations with advertising or donations.

Compared with the rest of Chad, the south and southwestern areas have a higher rate of weekly radio listeners, according to a 2009 survey. This may be due to the increased competition and presence of community radio stations producing locally based reports. Due also to the presence of local FM radio stations, survey respondents in these areas were twice as likely to access the FM-bandwidth than shortwave, the preferred bandwidth of all other areas of Chad. The survey used here did not cover the northern regions of Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti.

While RNT is easily the most listened to in the entire country, within specific subregions of this area of the country the reach of local radio stations rival or equal that of RNT. For example, within the Chari-Baguirami region, which surrounds the capital N’Djamena, there are four private stations that reach at least 25 percent of weekly radio listeners. In other regions such as Moyen-Chari, Tandjile or Logone Occidental, the number of radio stations located within their capitals is small, sometimes only one radio station. These stations often possess a strong weekly listenership but their numbers still remain far behind that of RNT. Nevertheless, these stations like Radio Lotiko or Radio Ngato may prove useful in reaching out to constituents with locally focused programming. For more specific information on how private stations compare to RNT see the Media Outlet Matrix.

Chart 1

These privately run stations have received some domestic support through professional associations, particularly for the protection of journalists. However, Chad lacks commercial associations representing media publishers or radio station owners. [1] International NGOs providing media assistance do have a presence within the country. Within this area of Chad, assistance has focused on training journalists to produce stories about development and peacebuilding efforts. For more information see the Media Environment and Development Efforts article.

Humanitarian Radio

Beyond the RNT and international broadcasters, another noteworthy development for radio in Chad is the emergence of local radio stations that target the large influx of refugees from southern Sudan and the Central African Republic. The importance of radio as a tool for humanitarian and relief efforts is quite evident within some of the eastern and southern provinces of Chad. The flight of refugees to the border areas of Chad served as the impetus for new humanitarian-oriented community radio and programming. The construction of such radio stations took place in direct response to the building of refugee and IDP (internally displaced persons) camps just inside the Chadian border. The chief organization supporting the development of these community radio stations is Internews, an international NGO that receives financial support from a number of U.S. government agencies.

As of the spring of 2010, Internews had helped to construct three radio stations, including two stations in the Ouaddai province -- located in the cities of Abeche and Goz Beida (eastern Chad) -- and another in the city of Iriba -- within the Wadi Fira province (central Chad). Each of the cities is home to thousands of refugees who have altered the social and economic environments in which they settled. The intention of these radio stations is to provide critical information not only to refugees but also to the area’s native inhabitants.

These stations are also attempting to bridge these two communities who now face immense competition for local resources. The RNT has a strong presence within the Ouaddai and Wadi Fira provinces, suggesting that the residents of these areas have a substantial appetite for media. Among weekly radio listeners, RNT has a weekly listenership of 89 percent in Oaddai and 81 percent in Wadi Fira. The 2009 survey used for our inquiry unfortunately did not question radio listeners about the listenership of the humanitarian stations mentioned above. For more information on humanitarian media and media developments in Chad see here.

State vs. International Radio

Chart 2

As mentioned previously, Chad’s only national-level radio stations are RNT and various international broadcasters. Within the Central and Eastern provinces, these stations are the sole media outlets providing news and entertainment available to Chadians. These provinces are located within both the Sahelian and Soudanian climate zones, which support a large portion of Chad’s subsistence farmers and ranchers.

Despite these areas’ relative lack of disposable income and ability to connect to the electrical grid, they have proven to be rather voracious radio listeners. In each province surveyed, over 50 percent of respondents reported listening to the radio in the past week. See Chart 2 above. This indicates a strong interest in media despite limited resources and access and shows how radio remains the most useful tool in reaching even the most rural of populations.

Chart 3

By far, RNT leads the international broadcasters in reach among weekly radio listeners. See Chart 3 for details. However, the international broadcasters, BBC Radio and Radio France Internationale (RFI), both have strong reaches within the Eastern and Central provinces. BBC Radio programming can be heard in Arabic, French and English through a number of FM stations and its shortwave service.

Chart 4

Like the BBC, RFI has a considerable listenership reach in many of Chad’s provinces, as can be seen in Chart 5. Because the Deby government has driven most of the foreign correspondents for international broadcasters out of the country, the programming of either the BBC and RFI may not be locally driven.. What these relatively high listenership rates, in addition to the support for the local stations mentioned previously, help substantiate is that Chadians are interested in media outlets beyond simply the RNT.

Not only that, but they are interested in “hard news” that addresses regional and international issues. Third, the popularity of BBC and RFI also hints at the possible sustainability of an independent radio station with national coverage. However, it is unlikely that the Deby government and the High Communication Council, the industry regulator, would allow such a station in the near future. The political obstacles combined with Chad’s few sources for advertising revenue also limit the possibility of a new national station.

Chart 5

[1] “Media Sustainability Index 2008: Chad”. International Research and Exchanges Board. Washington, DC. Accessed June 2010.