The West African country’s military junta suspended RFI’s broadcasts on December 4, 2022, accusing it of broadcasting a message of intimidation from a terrorist leader and misleading information. The broadcaster rejects the charges, saying the interruption occurred without warning and without implementing the procedures prepared by Burkina Faso’s High Council for Communication. According to RFI, the programs are widely listened to by the population: more than 40 % of citizens tune in at least once a week. RFI was broadcast on FM, free-to-air on several satellites, through about 50 partner radio stations and remains receivable on shortwave.
An uncomfortable voice
Burkina Faso is the second African country to shut down RFI: in Mali, the international broadcaster had been silenced on March 17, 2022 along with France 24 TV after reports implicating the army in abuses against civilians were published. Radio France Internationale has foreign programs in 19 languages, broadcasts on shortwave, and has 145 FM repeaters in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, as well as Central and South America. These are mainly countries of the former colonial empire, with a predominance on the African continent, which has as many as 108 installations.
The abolition of the radio and television licence fee does not please the workers of the public broadcasters, who went on strike on 26 June. A populist measure designed to ease the burden of inflation on French households, the abolition of the licence fee was one of President Emmanuel Macron’s battle horses in his campaign for the 2022 legislative elections. But workers fear that the more than three billion euro hole that will be created will take away the independence of public broadcasters, and argue that compensatory funds cannot be decided by the government, nor face the pitfalls of the annual finance law. In France, the fee amounts to 138 euros per year (88 for residents abroad) and is only payable by households that own a TV set: those who watch programmes from smartphones, PCs, TVs and tablets pay nothing. The radio networks (France Inter, France Culture, France Musique, France Bleu, FIP), the television stations and France Media Monde (France 24, RFI and MCD) are affected.