By the end of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), around 180 unlicensed radio stations were on air. The government announced its intention to reorganize and regulate the media sector, which led to the adoption of the Audiovisual Media Law (1994). Quotas and technical criteria for licensing radio stations were established which are yet to be overhauled.
Currently there are five major radio stations in the country and a dozen of small ones, broadcasting to 85 percent of the Lebanese population (2.85 million receivers according to the latest available statistics) in the four main languages spoken in the country: Arabic, English, French, Armenian. Five of them account for the majority of listeners and there are dozens of local radio stations. The majority of the country’s radio stations have commercial licenses, broadcasting music, socio-cultural programs and entertainment talk shows. Following the example of television, only a few of them have “class-A” licenses that entitle them to broadcast political content and news (the government owned Idhaat Lubnan, then Sawt Lubnan, Sawt ash-Shaab, Sawt al-Ghad, Sawt Lubnan al-Hurr and Idhaat an-Nur). As is the case for other Lebanese news media, also radio news providers, with the exception of the state-owned Idhaat Lubnan/Radio Liban (Radio of Lebanon, one of the first radios in the Arab world, founded in 1939), reflect their different political and religious affiliations.
Sawt Lubnan (Voice of Lebanon, 1975) is the voice of the pro-Western Christian-Maronite 'Lebanese Phalanges' party, while Idhaat an-Nur (Radio of Light) is linked to the Shiite pro-Iranian movement Hezbollah. Sawt al-Ghad (Voice of Tomorrow, 1997) is owned by the Free Patriotic Movement (Fpm) led by Maronite retired general and Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun, who was elected President of Lebanon at the end of 2016 , while Sawt Lubnan al-Hurr (Voice of Free Lebanon, 1985) is affiliated with the pro-Western Christian-Maronite 'Lebanese Forces' party; Sawt ash-Shaab (Voice of the People, 1987) is controlled by the once-powerful Lebanese Communist Party.
According to the latest available statistics, the leading news radio station is Sawt al-Ghad that can boast a 19 percent reach (2010). On the other hand, Sawt Lubnan is the first commercial radio station in the country and it reached 17 percent of the population in 2010. Sawt Lubnan al-Hurr ranks third – with 15 percent audience reach in 2010 – and it mainly broadcasts Arabic-language political programs and news bulletins.
In more recent times, Lebanese radio companies have been diversifying their offer and providing a wider range of digital services, with online streaming, dedicated websites and mobile apps. Not only does this enable them to broadcast internationally, it also allows them to take advantage of new technology, like programmatic advertising.