Senegal : Newly liberalised private TV and radio channels winning hands-down in the battle for audiences

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Africa’s francophone countries have been slow to liberalise compared to many of their anglophone counterparts but the tide may be turning as events in Senegal seem to show. Its increasingly liberalised media is winning the battle for audiences hands-down and putting very real pressure on the previously well-entrenched state broadcaster. Russell Southwood looks at the latest survey results from Adesr.

Dakar will soon have 7 television stations, not including the three Pay-TV channels you can get if you can afford them or can pirate a service. In addition it has many radio stations that compete for listeners both inside and outside Dakar. The latest of these - Zig FM - has like President Obama recently celebrated its first 100 days.

L'Agence dakaroise d'études stratégiques et de Recherches (Adesr) has recently published the results of its media survey conducted between 21-28 March 2009. In both the fields of TV and radio, the Senegalese state broadcaster has lost listeners and viewers to Walf TV and Walf FM. As the group’s newspaper put it : »The state broadcaster conjures up the image of an old mammoth surrounded by young wolves with long teeth. »

Walf TV is the latest private TV chain to join the fray and the Adesr survey results show that it has 93% of viewers in Dakar who view it regularly, up from 89.7% in the last quarter. 2Stv is level pegging on 92.4% but lost two points since last survey. However, RTS1, the state channel lost a whopping 10 points since the last survey, taking it down to a 80.2% habitual audience. According to Adesr : »With the exception of Walf, all channels lost (audience share).

When asked what their favourite channel was, 39.2% of respondents replied Walf TV compared with 31.5% for 2Stv. The fourth most liked channel was Rdv with 7.8% of preferences and pay-TV operator Canal Plus with 2.6% of preferences. Also Walf TV came out top in all of the different programme categories offered in the survey.

The field of radio is far more competitive in Dakar. Neverthless, Walf FM got 34.7% of preferences, 13 points ahead of Rfm. Again, in terms of regular listeners, Walf FM scored 76% against Rfm’s 55% and Sud FM’s 25.9%, with Soxna FM (24.5%) and Nostalgie (24.2%) taking fourth and fifth place respectively. Community radio Oxyjeune FM went up from 21st to 8th place.

In time, loss of market share will mean loss of advertising revenues. In defence of the the state broadscaster, it should be remembered that the survey described was focused on the capital Dakar. Outside the capital, the state broadcaster still largely has a monopoly but that will not last.

Mamadou Baal, Directeur de la Television for the Government-financed RTS channel admitted on a Vox Africa TV round table at DISCOP in February 2009 that the pressure was intense but thought himself lucky to have a Government that put up some of its funding. That steady support might waiver if the state broadcaster can’t find a formula that begins to win back its audiences.