MEDIA Owners in Rwanda are disputing the results of an audience survey that has placed state radio as the biggest in terms of listenership, writes Dennis Itumbi for

The inaugural media audience survey, carried out between March and June 2009 and published early this week by The Media High Council, was aimed at boosting understanding of media consumption in Rwanda.

"The Media Council wanted to establish the readership and listenership of Rwandans for better statistics in planning for media development in the country," MHC Executive Secretary Patrice Mulama said during the release of the survey.

He said the survey would form the basis for the council to license media organs on account of their program content in line with what Rwandan audiences need.

But the findings of the survey were challenged by private media owners, who accused the state-funded regulatory body of favouring state media.

Albert Rudatsimburwa, the proprietor of Contact FM, one of the most popular radio stations, demanded a better survey by specialized researchers for better statistics.

"The survey left out important issues like radio listenership according to time and particular programs. It is not possible that all Rwandans listen to Radio Rwanda all the time. Some could tune in for announcements or specific programs," Rudatsimburwa complained, claiming that his radio offers much more, especially to the youth, than anyone else in the country.

He noted that the researchers failed to consider the period of operation of the media organizations and the natural inclination attached to those in business for a longer period like the national radio.

“Of course Radio Rwanda has been there for ages and some listeners can easily confuse any Kinyarwanda speaking radio with Radio Rwanda. Researchers should have grouped radios according to their period of operation and not put all of them on the same gauge,” he further argued.

Others wondered why the survey captured data on the listenership of some FM radios in the provinces yet their signals do not even cover Kigali City.

The survey done by a Kenyan based research organization, Incisive, acknowledged the link between local language usage and media organs preference, concluding that basically majority of Rwandans used the local language and prefer those mediums that used it.

This brought the national radio top on the list of audio media, while the government-owned newspaper published in the local language led in the print category. The two have been in business for over thirty years.

Other media outlets in the lead were those using the national language. Umuseso, the only independent Kinyarwanda on the top list, came fifth.

The first four were in the lead given their countrywide circulation along institutional structures.

Imvaho Nshya is distributed up to the local level since it carries all government announcements and tenders.
Ingabo is distributed to all army units in the country while Kinyamateeka is present at all Catholic parishes.
Umuseso’s circulation is limited by fewer copies published.

Hobe magazine raised questions as other publishers wondered how it came on the list while facing financial constraints and with limited circulation within Kigali City. Presenting the findings of the survey on behalf of Incisive, Ken Dirango, recommended that more and in-depth surveys be carried out to keep track of media development in the country.

Mulama encouraged players in the private sector to invest in such surveys for continued data collection.