Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) will today celebrate 55 years in service. For the public broadcaster, the day will be an opportunity to reflect and re-commit to better serve the people, its leaders say.
The broadcaster will be marking 55 years since its first transmission went on air as the nation’s premier broadcasting service.
In 1961, the first studios of Radio Rwanda were built in Kigali, shifting from Usumbura (how the Burundian capital Bujumbura was known then), but only started operations two years later
Speaking to The New Times, Arthur Asiimwe, the Director General of RBA, said the celebrations will be a time to reflect on their core mandate as a public broadcaster and to re-focus their energy toward building a trusted and respected public service broadcaster.
Formerly known as Office Rwandais de Information (ORINFOR), Rwanda Broadcasting Agency has since evolved from the previous state-owned mouthpiece to an independent national public broadcaster that gives platform to all Rwandans to express their views on many issues, Asiimwe said.
He said the anniversary comes at a time the institution is looking to position itself as a leader in quality content, as well as to promote cultural values, socio-economic development and citizen participation.
Asiimwe said that one of the core objectives of the 55th anniversary celebration is to rebuild and strengthen RBA brand as a corporate entity with modern broadcasting products.
“The day will be a time for us to engage with our clients and stakeholders to recognise their contribution in our journey for the last 55 years. It will also be a platform to reconnect with our audience and appreciate the trust they have bestowed upon us for all these years but also commit ourselves to serving them better,” he said.
The digital evolution
Innocent Nkurunziza, the director of technical services at RBA, said technology has brought about tremendous changes and that this has greatly helped the public broadcaster.
In 2012, the television penetration was around 6% in 2012 but it is now at 12%. For the radio, penetration is at 70%. Penetration refers to the portion of households with access to radios or television sets.
Transmission sites have also increased from six to 18 and this has increased coverage, he said. In 2007, TV coverage was around 59% but it has since increased to 95%, while the radio coverage is 99%.
Nkurunziza largely attributed this progress to new technology, increased government investment and support from other partners.
Nkurunziza, who has been with the institution for over 28 years, applauded RBA’s evolution which he says have increasingly broadened public involvement with the broadcaster.
“By RBA becoming a public broadcaster, it became an open platform for the citizens to interact and contribute their views on the national development.”
RBA has reached many milestones over the years, its leaders say.
One such milestone, they say, is fiber installation at six sites and four community radios.
RTV was also made available on satellite, thus increasing its penetration across the East African Community and Sub-Saharan African region.
Radio and TV studios have also been digitalised, while there is satellite availability for live coverage.
Fourteen transmission sites have been digitalised while there was an FM gap filler in Kirehe and Gakenke districts.
Today, Radio Rwanda and Rwanda TV can be accessed on mobile devices using the RBA App.
Focus on local content
Peacemaker Mbungiramihigo, the executive secretary of the Rwanda Media High Council, noted that RBA’s transformation into a public broadcaster allowed the agency to move towards meeting the needs of the public.
He pointed out that, from the citizen’s point of view, the perception is that the public broadcaster is now playing its role in terms of giving a platform to the people.
Statistics from Rwanda Media Barometer report 2016 show that professionalism of the media is at 71 per cent, access to information for citizens 65 per cent, freedom of expression 82 per cent and capacity building of media 69 per cent.
However, Mbungiramihigo said that even as there is notable progress on the part of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency and other media outlets in the country, more is needed to be done.
“There is need to improve the content especially by promoting Rwanda values and culture. This is one of the observations from the public; there is need to conduct audience surveys to ensure that what is being aired or published actually meets the needs of Rwandans. Media outlets need to start providing information on the basis of scientific research,” he said.
Egidie Bibio Ingabire, a presenter with RBA and chairperson of the Association of Rwandan Female Journalists, said the agency’s transformation is so evident seeing that it is a voice to the voiceless.
“There is a lot of progress in terms of content,” she said.
Ingabire also noted that the positive changes have had an impact on the women working in the organisation. Changes happened in terms of women empowerment, a lot has been done for women to be included.
“Women (working at RBA) were few in the past years and they used to work in conditions that weren’t conducive because of people’s mindset, but this has changed,” she said.
Norah Mutesi, a University graduate, applauds the changes RBA has made so far, saying that aside from the consistency of the programmes the content has improved as well.
“We can access a variety of information right now because of the different programmes, whether it is entertainment or politics, we have access to all of this. Also, it is now easier for one to follow their favourite show because of a more consistent schedule, which is now more organised compared with the past years,” she said.