Radio has come a long way from its introduction to Nigeria in 1933 primarily for relaying the overseas service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to the public over loudspeakers. Since the then Radio Diffusion Service (RDS) metamorphosed to the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), radio has been embraced by both public and private interests as a medium of mass communication. Its reach is in such proportions that each of the country’s 36 states has at least one government-owned and another private radio station. The radio is Nigeria’s biggest means of news dissemination (although it remains perpetually in the shadows of television and print/online in terms of influence).
According to a 2015 research by Broadcasting Board of Governors — an independent agency of the US government with the mission to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” — Nigerians are avid consumers of news, with 77.4 percent overall and more than seven in 10 across all major demographic groups saying they listen to the radio for news at least weekly.
Three-quarters of Nigerians said they listened to the radio in the week preceding the interview. In terms of waveband, FM is by far the most commonly used (90.4 percent), while AM (30.2 percent) and SW (19.7 percent) use fell in 2014 (from 45.3 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively). Also, 64.7 percent reported past-week usage of a conventional radio. Of this, nearly four in 10 said they listened to the radio weekly using a mobile phone (37.3 percent) and 12.0 percent reported listening on a car radio. Other methods of listening are satellite receiver (5.1 percent), cable TV (4.0 percent), or the Internet (3.4 percent).
Of the hundreds of radio stations in Nigeria, the two most listened-to are Wazobia FM and Ray Power. These two topped a poll by Kantar-GeoPoll Media Measurement, and Africa-centric media ratings provider, of the top radio stations in for three months in 2015 spread across eight states: Abia, Edo, Enugu, Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), Kaduna, Lagos, Oyo, and Rivers. The two stations were in close competition for audience, each averaging 11.6 percent of the listening populace. Cool FM and Splash FM followed with 7.0 percent and 6.6 percent shares respectively. (When the research was narrowed down to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, the top stations were similar: Wazobia FM 14.5 percent and Ray Power FM 11.8 percent.)
A similar national report for the first quarter of 2017 saw Wazobia FM retain its top spot with an average of 9.6 percent of all listeners, followed by Ray Power FM with an average of 8.2 percent. Nigeria Info FM got the third position with a distant share of 3.84 percent, followed closely by Fresh FM with 3.83 percent.
Founded in 2007 by Globe Communications Limited, Wazobia (loosely an expression of ‘come’ in the three main ethnic languages), owes its popularity to broadcasting in street lingo, Pidgin English. It is based in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State.
Meanwhile, Ray Power began operating in 1994 as the first 24-hour broadcast service station in Nigeria and the first private independent broadcasting station in the country. It is owned by Raymond Dokpesi, a businessman and politician.
The largest radio network is marshalled by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Nigeria's publicly funded radio broadcasting organisation with FM stations across the 36 states and a zonal station in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country.