The radio in Yemen has a significant role in shaping the narratives of the war. Since the rate of illiteracy is high, for 30% of the population radio channels are the only source of information. Due to this precious role of the radio, Houthis are waging a ruthless war against radio stations across the country. As a consequence, most of the radios either shut down their broadcasts, started to operate according to the Houthi requirements. Radio stations wishing to broadcast independent content were forced to move to other Arab capitals, such as Riyadh, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi.
All radio broadcasts in Yemen are controlled by the state-run Yemen general Corporation for Radio and Television (YGCRT). The YGCRT operates two national radio networks with studios in Sana'a and Aden. It also runs Al-Shabab Radio, a Sana'a-based radio station that broadcasts four hours per day targeting a youth audience. In addition YGCRT operates local radio stations in 10 provincial cities. Today, most of these in Sadaa, Lahj, and Zinjibar, were shut down by the Houthis.
Radios are heavily impacted by the so-called war effort revenues, a form of taxes which if refused to be paid, can result in detention of execution of the staff. The aired contents consist of pro-Houthi propaganda, messages of support for Hezbollah and Iran, military recruiting campaigns, reports on the destruction caused by Saudi-led airstrikes, or popular songs calling for war.
Local radio stations are commonly referred to as “kitchen radio” because it is very common that especially women listen to them while they are cooking. Actually there are more the 10 radio channels, most of which broadcast in the medium waves, except for Sana’a Radio that also broadcasts in the short waves and locally in the FM. These radios broadcast in the following provincial capitals: Ataq, Al Hodeidah, Hajiah, Ibb, Lahj, Al Mukalla, Saada, Sayun, Taiz and Zinjibar.
Sana'a Radio is a Yemeni Radio that first began airing in 1947 at a rate of two and a half hours per week (two days per week) with a small transmitter with a capacity that did not exceed 13 kw. Broadcast programmes were about the following topics: Quran, religious Hadiths and Touachih (religious songs); then it provided some old military marches that were left behind by the Turks after their departure from Yemen. In addition the broadcaster aired songs from the drama television series Copper, about the American Civil War. Transmission continued in this manner until the year 1948, when broadcasting stopped for an indefinite time after the failure of the 1948 revolution because of the positive role played by the radio in supporting the rebels. The shutdown continued until 1955. Except for one week in the year, when the radio reopened its programs to celebrate the so-called Festival of Victory.
Despite severe censorship by the regime on the radio sector before the revolution, there was a creative constellation which contributed to the evolution of radio programmatically and administratively, whenever it had the opportunity to develop. During the travel of the local Imam to Italy in 1958, Sana'a Radio presented several programs on the injustices and tyranny of the government, on the development status of the neighboring countries and it also focused on what the southern provinces of the country suffered under foreign occupation (the British) and advocated the need for the exit of the occupiers in order to reunite the country. And once the first spark of the 26 September Revolution in 1962 appeared, Sana'a Radio lead the initiative to broadcast the first statement of the revolution goals.
Aden Radio is the second most popular station nationwide. Before the union of the two Yemens in 1990, Aden Radio served as the national radio station of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. It broadcasts for 18 hours a day from 06:00 to midnight in Aden and Sana'a on 92.6 or 105.0 FM. Its outputs includes entertainment, music and news. The station was originally set up under the British colonial rule in 1954.
Al-Shabaab Radio is a Sana'a-based radio station targets young people with educational, religious, political and cultural programmes. It also broadcasts special programmes on religious and national holidays. It was launched in 2003. It broadcasts (in FM and in Medium Wave) four hours per day in two separate two-hours segments. It also broadcasts on satellite.
Taiz Radio serves one of the largest provincial cities in North Yemen and the surrounding rural area. It broadcasts eight hours per day. It was set up in 1963 by the newly installed Republican Government in Sana'a to allow it to continue broadcasting in the event that Royalist forces were recaptured the capital.
Al-Hodeidah Radio broadcasts from the Red Sea port of al-Hodeida which also is the centre of Yemen’s oil industry. It’s on air for 13 hours per day. It started in 1968 as a community radio station.
Ibb Radio broadcasts in the South Western city of Ibb and the surrounding area for five hours per day. The station started broadcasting in 2005.
Shabwa Radio is one of the more recent local radio stations of Yemen. It began broadcasting from Ataq, the capital of the Shabwa governorate in Central Yemen.
Lahj Radio is situated in Lahj, the capital of Lahj governorate, about 50 km North of Aden. It has been off air since the attack on Lahj town by Islamist rebels in 2011. Since 2012 it broadcasts via streaming from Al-Shabaab Radio website in Sana'a.
Al-Mukalla Radio broadcasts from the southeastern coastal city of Al-Mukalla, in the sparsely populated southern governorate of Hadramawt. The station broadcasts nine hours per day in FM and Medium Wave band. It has been closed by Aqap which took the city in 2016.
Sayun Radio broadcasts from the northeastern town of Sayun and covers the northern part of the Hadramawt governorate. It broadcasts six hours a day.
Hajjah Radio broadcasts from the city of Hajjah, about 130 km North-West of Sana'a on 89.2 FM.
Abyan Radio used to broadcast on FM from the coastal city of Zinjibar, 60 km West of Aden. Its coverage was limited to Zinjibar and the adjacent rural area. When Zinjibar fell under the control of Aqap in March 2011, various media reported that the rebels used the radio station to announce the establishment of an Islamic emirate in the area. Abyan Radio subsequently went off air. From January 2012 it was no longer operational.
To counter the growing Iranian influence on the ground, the Saudi Broadcasting Corporation started to develop content for Saudis deployed in Yemen. The Al-Azam station, located on Saudi territory can be accessed in Northern Yemen through satellite connection.
Radio Lana is one of the most popular operating FM in Yemen. The channel is backed by the International Media Support, and belongs to the few independent news sources. From early mornings till late evenings, every day except for Friday the radio broadcasts to around 3 million listeners. In 2019, Radio Lana introduced a special program focusing on mental health, dealing with political differences, and processing the death of loved ones. The radio can also be considered pioneer for employing women as two-thirds of the editorial team.