Radio exists in Burundi since 1960, when the public Radio nationale began broadcasting on the territory of Rwanda-Urundi. Radio nationale, like all other public media, has been a tool at the service of the government and not of the Burundian public. The ruling party also launched some radios like Radio Rema FM - which manages to be functional even if it was partly vandalised by the failed coup plotters in 2015. The CNC council instructed the Director of this radio station to point out to him the excessive nature of the remarks made in certain programmes. Listeners do not hesitate to say that some guests use hate speech from their positions of power.
Other private radio stations were created between 1994 and 1996. This is the case of the radio of the Chamber of Commerce, CCIB FM+, approved in 1994, and Radio Umwizero, whose purpose is humanitarian. The former had funding from French cooperation and the latter was supported by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO). Burundians are thus able to obtain varied information even if the degree of listener satisfaction is difficult to determine, because of the scarcity of audience measurement in the country.
As of September 2018, according to the CNC, which issues authorisations for media outlets, there were four international radio stations, twenty local radio stations (against nineteen in 2015) and nine community radios (against five in March 2015). It must be noted that many community radios belong to individuals or groups with strong links with political parties.
In 2019, the regulatory body decided to withdraw the BBC’s operating license for having broadcast a supposedly lying documentary according to the Government of Burundi. The documentary in question shows, in particular, a house where people are said to be illegally detained and even killed for being opponents of the government. The CNC also decided to suspend Voice Of America (VOA) broadcasts throughout Burundi. In order to regain permission to broadcast, VOA must sign an agreement with the CNC and stop employing the former director of Bonesha FM, who was accused of harming state security in 2015. These two international stations are still widely appreciated by Burundian listeners.
Except for some news outlets, even the most accessible and listened-to radios have a hard time clearly differentiating one another through editorial lines, with consequences in the loyalty of their audience. Radios should aim at the construction of a more coherent, more targeted offer, allowing them to be better identified and more clearly chosen.