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Published on January 2nd, 2014 | by EJC

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First National Audience Media Survey Of South Sudan Finds Radio The Most Accessible Source Of Information

This article was authored by Forcier Consulting with support from SwissPeaks and InterMedia, and commissioned by Internews. It appeared on the Internews website on 29 October, 2013. Republished with permission.

Information that is accessible, trustworthy, and responsive to local needs is of critical importance in South Sudan, the world’s newest country, where citizens face challenges including poverty, regional and ethnic conflict, and lack of infrastructure.

To pinpoint the most effective ways to improve information access, Internews commissioned the first nationally representative media survey in South Sudan. The survey provides a roadmap of the media environment and an understanding of how information flows among the people of South Sudan, who are in need of information in almost every area – from governance to public health. Read the National Survey Report. Read a companion report on radio listeners’ opinions.

In order to carry out such an ambitious project, the research project trained more than 100 individuals, who fanned out across the country to talk to its people, often working under extreme conditions and in some of the most inaccessible places in sub-Saharan Africa. The team interviewed approximately 3,800 individuals across South Sudan’s ten states.

The survey questionnaire was designed to gather a socio-demographic profile of radio listeners and non-listeners alike, as well as their information needs, general media consumption patterns, access to specific media sources, and radio listening behaviors. It also sought greater understanding of the South Sudanese people in terms of their knowledge and behaviors related to critical issues in the areas of civic awareness, public health, and gender equality.

Photo: cucchiaio

Findings from the Media Assessment

Some of the more significant findings from the South Sudan National Media Survey include:

  • Radio remains the most accessible and trusted (by 70%) source of information for the vast majority of people in South Sudan. Males and younger generations have greater access to radio as well as to other technology-based sources of information.
  • Computers and televisions remain largely insignificant to South Sudanese; nearly half of all respondents did not have immediate access to media devices or technologies of any kind.
  • Radio listeners are disproportionately male, younger and better-educated. There is a need to expand access to other groups, particularly women.
  • Despite the popularity of radio as an information source, just over half of South Sudanese are non-listeners, largely because they do not own or have access to a radio. Many people get their information by relying solely on their personal social networks and via face-to-face communication.
  • Community-based radio stations in rural areas consistently top the local market over any other station within their individual broadcast ranges.
  • In general, radio listeners show a strong preference for news programs with a particular focus on local and national news.
  • Radio listeners in South Sudan tend to rely on radio as their only source of information, which is reflected in terms of their exposure to critical information in such areas as civic awareness, women’s issues, and public health. However, there are still critical gaps in knowledge – for example, only 26% of the population said they were aware of the transitional constitution.
  • There is strong evidence to suggest that radio (including community radio) is having a positive impact on listeners, who scored significantly higher on political knowledge and gender equality indexes specifically developed as part of this survey.

Findings from the Audience Feedback Survey

The qualitative survey, the South Sudan Community Radio Audience Feedback Study found that:

  • Key topics of interest included governance, security and peace, crime and punishment, youth, livelihoods, health, the rights of women and returnees, local and national news, and community announcements.
  • Community radio is considered an essential part of the rural communities, helping to meet practical needs, promote positive behavior change, promote and reinforce development, strengthen accountability, and unite people.
  • In addition to promoting “progressive” social change, the community radio stations are seen by many as a means of reinforcing traditional authority. This points to a need to address the tension between community-ownership and imposing an “outside agenda.”

While the role of radio as a tool for positive social change has been acknowledged before, the results from this survey demonstrate that such a role in South Sudan cannot be overstated. Beyond being a medium for entertainment, radio has the power to change people’s lives; it can convey a wealth of information in critical areas like civic awareness, gender equality, and public health.

Yet there are significant obstacles to overcome, the greatest of which may be women’s lack of, access to media technology. While this problem extends to radio, it remains by far the best-positioned media technology to meet the information needs of women in South Sudan today. However, a better understanding of those needs is required, as well as more creative ways to increase women’s access to radios and control over the dial.

About the Organisation:

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Internews is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to empower local media worldwide to give people the news and information they need, the ability to connect and the means to make their voices heard. With global expertise and reach, Internews trains both media professionals and citizen journalists, introduces innovative media solutions, increases coverage of vital issues and helps establish policies needed for open access to information. Follow on Twitter: @Internews

Photo: Internews Network

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