The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has sparked a resurgence of interest in shortwave broadcasting, as nations strategically harness this medium to serve their individual interests. As in the case of the newly founded Ifrikya FM, which operates from Algeria to sub-Saharan countries.
While the transition to digital is being considered for FM, the war in Ukraine has shown that the ‘old’ short and medium waves are the only ones capable of bypassing the blocks that freedom of information might suffer from an authoritarian regime. By launching the signal from thousands of kilometers away, they cannot be countered except by jamming transmitted in isofrequency by the other side’s transmitters, a practice much used during the Cold War but now almost in disuse. So much so that many broadcasters, from the BBCto RFE-Radio Liberty and Vatican Radio, have dusted off old transmitters or created new transmissions aimed at crisis areas. But international services are also at the service of political propaganda, as in the case of Algerian Ifrikya FM.
The multi-ethnic editorial staff and correspondents in nine countries
Inaugurated in Algiers on 3 May 2023, to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, Ifrikya FM was created ‘to give a voice to African listeners‘ and its slogan is ‘The African voice’. It is actually a strategy of rapprochement with the sub-Saharan area, supported by the relaunch of new air and sea lines between Algeria and Senegal, a country with which diplomatic relations have been renewed. The station broadcasts 24 hours in French, Arabic, Targui, Hausa, and Bambara and has a staff of young journalists from Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Lesotho, Mali, Cameroon, and Niger as well as a network of correspondents in nine African countries. It broadcasts on shortwave on 13790 kHz, on the AlcomSat satellite, and on FM on 105.6 MHz (Algiers/Bouzaréah, replacing Radio Coran) and 98.4 (Tamanrasset, replacing Radio Sahel, which goes off the air).
Schedule and frequency updates for the shortwave service are available through WRTH (World Radio TV Handbook) at https://wrth.info/news/.
The image and the quotation of the famous phrase “it always seems impossible until it’s done” by Nelson Mandela, hero of the fight against apartheid and first South African president, are not enough to convince public radio and television listeners to pay the fee. The citizens of South Africa do not want to pay the 265 South African Rand: at today’s exchange rate they correspond to little more than 15 Euros, but it must be considered that income is not equally distributed: blacks receive on average less than one-fifth of the salary of a white person.
So at the beginning of this year the SABC, in a severe budget crisis, expanded the number of subscribers to include all those who could receive streaming programs on laptops, tablets and cell phones. But it has already cashed the stop of DStv, a platform that offers programs via satellite or streaming: executives have refused to charge its subscribers, saying that they cannot act as collectors and that public broadcasting must devise other ways to finance itself.
For two years an all female broadcaster is shaking the tree in this West African country that – according to a UN report – is one of the fifteen less developed countries in the world. The radio station aims to raise awareness on gender equality, formally granted by the constitution, but very difficult to apply in a Muslim and patriarchal society that still uses genital mutilation on young women. Born in Bafata, thanks to the efforts of Periodistas Solidarios – a NGO from Seville (Spain), it operates with equipment donated by Radio Nacional de España and Canal Sur Radio (Regional government of Andalusia’s official radio station); now the project is supported by UN. It could be a coincidence, butwithin a year the main broadcaster of the city (RCB, Radio Comunitaria de Bafata, 105.5 MHz) hired three women: previously the transmissions were all hosted by men. Radio broadcasting isn’t easy in Guinea Bissau, not only for social and political reasons: electricity is only supplied for a couple of hours during the night, so it’s necessary relying on photovoltaic panels or generators.
Repeaters are to be turned off, transmitting power to be reduced, and frequencies to be reallocated, all in order to decongest the FM frequencies in this West African country, where they have 56 radio stations with a total of about 200 channels. MACRA – Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority stopped issuing new radio broadcast licenses and called for a tender for the reorganisation of the radio frequencies. This was subsequently won by the English consulting firm, CASiTEL.
The three phase plan
The consulting firm mapped out the current FM network and created a database of the frequencies and broadcasting sites. They examined the FM network coverage, identified the areas impacted by interference and presented a plan to significantly improve the quality of service. Finally, they optimised the broadcasting services coverage to enable the introduction of a greater number of channels that will be issued broadcasting licenses in the course of 2020.