BBG, Gallup Issue Findings on Media Use in the Sahel

Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG; William Bell, Research Director, International Broadcasting Bureau; Rajesh Srinivasan, Ph.D., Principal, Gallup; Magali Rheault, Regional Research Director – Francophone Africa, Gallup

Bruce Sherman, Director, Office of Strategy and Development, BBG; William Bell, Research Director, International Broadcasting Bureau; Rajesh Srinivasan, Ph.D., Principal, Gallup; Magali Rheault, Regional Research Director – Francophone Africa, Gallup

Washington, D.C. — Media use in the Sahel region is flourishing, as the majority of adults in Somalia (65.6%) and in Bamako, Mali (78.4%) say that they access news at least once per day, according to new data issued today by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Gallup.

The data on Mali and Somalia show how communications technologies are evolving even as traditional broadcasts in radio and TV continue to play a primary role as news distribution platforms. This research informs the current and future operations of the agency’s broadcasts in 61 languages to more than 100 countries.

BBG Governor Michael Meehan acknowledged the important role of taxpayer-funded research in international media, saying that “we want to share with the public the data that drive our understanding of our audiences and markets, and to encourage dialogue on how to be successful in our mission.”

The work of the BBG is critical now in the Sahel and in particular Mali and Somalia, the two countries discussed in today’s briefing. The findings presented about media consumption habits in Somalia came from a nationally representative, face-to-face survey conducted January 26 through February 13, 2013. Also presented were media consumption habits in Bamako, Mali from a representative face-to-face survey of the Bamako population, conducted in December 2012.

The data show that the majority of Somalis (65.6%) access news at least once per day. Radio is the most popular means for obtaining news in Somalia, with 83.9% reporting they get news via radio at least once per week. Personal mobile phone ownership among respondents is 72.4%. Media use differs across the country. South-Central Somalia has the most vibrant media mix in the country, with higher rates of SMS usage, television, newspapers, mobile apps, and Internet than in other regions.

The findings also show that in Mali, Bamako adults are avid news users; 92.5% say they receive news from television, radio, the Internet or newspapers at least once a week; 78.4% report they receive news from these sources at least once a day. Diverse media ownership is widespread in Bamako, where nine in 10 Bamako adults say they have a mobile phone in their household, 86.6% report owning a radio, and 83.8% report that they have a working television.

“The extreme danger of practicing journalism in these regions impedes local journalists and gives international media the opportunity to play a major role,” said William Bell, Research Director at the International Broadcasting Bureau.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors has a substantial audience in Somalia via the Voice of America, with a weekly reach of 51.6%. VOA Somali reaches over half (50.1%) of the adult population weekly via radio and 15.4% via television on a weekly basis.

The Voice of America reaches 10.1% of adults in Bamako, Mali across radio, TV, and Internet platforms. Earlier in 2013, the BBG launched a new FM in Bamako and began distributing the first-ever Western programming in the Bambara language just as Islamist extremists were invading the northern part of the country.

The video recording of the briefing and documents presented at the event can be found here: Global Hotspots: Media Use in Mali and Somalia.

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