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Study Shows Positive Impact of African Languages on FM Radio

02-05-2005 (Paris)
A study carried out by the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS), indicates that people surveyed in Mali, Ghana and Senegal appreciate African language broadcasts, want more programming in African languages and consider them to have a number of positive impacts. The study was funded by UNESCO within the framework of the Community Multimedia Centre programme.
CASAS Director, Kwesi Kwaa Prah, worked with researchers in the three countries to conduct the survey, through questionnaires and interviews. He points out that although the sample, at under 400 people, is too small to provide a statistically accurate representation of national public opinion, “however, it was possible to obtain impressions about the relative strength of opinions between countries and within the samples in each country”.

Three-quarters of respondents believe that African language FM broadcasting has a positive social impact, particularly on community radio and local FM, which invite listener participation. “The deepening of the culture of democracy is a distinct feature of the impact of African-language FM radios”, the report notes.

Amongst examples of positive impacts cited by respondents: African-langue FM broadcasting enables illiterates to access information and to contribute on social issues through call-in programmes; it plays a crucial role in educating illiterate people and it makes young people more aware of local traditions.

Most people questioned want more African language programmes and had suggestions on how this could be encouraged. “An award for stations that use African languages should be introduced”, advised one respondent in Ghana. There should be “more airtime for African languages at peak time”, said a Senegalese respondent. The call for more African-language programming concerned national radio as well as private and community stations.

While most were highly satisfied with the presentation of African language programmes, some said presenters were too opinionated and there were calls for more training for African language presenters. General entertainment is the favourite type of programming, but is closely followed by health, news, politics, educational programmes and sports. A number of respondents said there was too much religious programming.

People were questioned about African languages as a medium for broadcasting. While over 50% believe that African languages can carry all ideas and information, a significant minority in Ghana (38%) and fewer respondents in Mali (14%) and Senegal (23%) thought not, citing technical and cultural constraints: a lack of vocabulary for some concepts and the sensitivity of some topics.

However, the study argues that African-language FM broadcasts “are helping towards the growth and development of African languages”, through “linguistic borrowing, “the extension of semantic fields” and the “creation of new terminologies”. It goes on to say that these stations are “helping to push up the aesthetic qualities of African languages” and that listeners are particularly sensitive to elegant and expressive language use.

Bibliographic entry:

Speaking African on the Radio. Impact Assessment Survey of FM/Community Radios Using African Languages in Ghana, Mali and Senegal. A CASAS Study in cooperation with UNESCO's Communication Development Division. Prepared by Kwesi Kwaa Prah . - Captown: UNESCO and Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society, 2005
Related themes/countries

      · Multilingualism in Cyberspace: News Archives 2005
      · News Archives 2005
      · Mali: News Archive 2005
      · Ghana: News Archives
      · Senegal: News Archives 2005
      · Africa: News Archive 2005
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