Radio is the most largely consumed and trusted media in South Sudan. In Juba city alone, 66 percent of the population have access to radio with men being more likely (70 percent) to have listened to radio than women (62 percent) according to Internews (2015). But, just like other media, radio has come under huge pressure to broadcast pro-government information or at worst became a mouthpiece for the government and military regimes. The operations and reach of radio stations has also been impacted by the conflict, by huge operation costs and diminishing revenues.
According to two surveys (Internews 2013, 2015), Radio Miraya, run by the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), remains the only station with the capacity to reach the corner-most regions of South Sudan’s former 10 states. Eye Radio, funded by the USAID was the most listened-to radio station in the country. Founded in 2006 and formerly known as the Sudan Radio Service, Eye Radio was broadcasted on shortwave out of Nairobi, Kenya in English and Arabic. Following the independence, the station moved operations to Juba and changed its name to Eye Radio. The station mainly broadcasted news and information in English and other local languages spoken in the country such as Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Bari, Moru, Zande and Toposa. The radio maintained the same output of news and information programs, public service announcements and educational programmes, most of which include daily phone-in segments. The radio, which gained popularity over the years, has become an epicentre of news and current affairs in South Sudan. Throughout the conflict, it continued broadcasting even during the heavy fighting in Juba in 2013 and 2016.
The UN-run Radio Miraya has a wider geographic reach than any other FM station in the country. It broadcasts from Juba on FM frequencies and across the country through a network of 26 relay stations linked by satellite. Most of Radio Miraya’s programmes are broadcast in English and Juba Arabic, a simple Arabic dialect spoken in South Sudan. The station disseminates news and information throughout the country; It was set up in partnership between the UN Mission in South Sudan and the Swiss-based Hirondelle Foundation in 2006.
The government of South Sudan operates a loosely coordinated network of local radio stations across the country under the umbrella of South Sudan Radio. Many of them broadcast on FM and can be heard within the vicinity of the towns where they are based. The broadcast output of South Sudan Radio’s FM stations is heavily dominated by views and commentaries of the SPLM political leaders and senior administrators in local states. At least 30 FM stations have been set up across the country with the encouragement of the SPLM.
Despite the proliferation of FM stations in recent years, many remote areas still rely on shortwave broadcasts. Some of the more popular news and information radio on shortwave include Bakhita Radio which was founded in 2006 under the auspice of the Catholic Radio Network (CRN). Bakhita radio claims that it has a potential audience of one million people. The station broadcasts religious programming and news, but in the past it varied its output depending on the political climate. Between 2012 and 2014, Bakhita used to produce a popular morning show called Wake Up Juba which engaged South Sudanese on debates around issues of politics and governance. The program was shut down following a government authorities’ directive.
Just like other media outlets, radio operations and reach are concentrated in Juba city. As of 2015, the radio stations weekly reach in 5 major towns besides Juba were: Radio Miraya (66 percent), Eye Radio (48 percent), Radio Bakhita (31 percent), BBC World Service in English (27 percent), Classic FM (21 percent), City FM (21 percent), Radio Juba (17 percent), BBC World Service Arabic (17 percent), Liberty FM (14 percent) and Capital FM (13 percent) according to an Internews Network survey.