German media relay station in Kigali to be switched off

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura) has confirmed the closure of a facility belonging to Deutsche Welle (DW), saying the German broadcaster did not seek to renew its operational licence.
DW masts dominate the skyline of Kinyinya neighbourhood of Kigali. (John Mbanda)
DW masts dominate the skyline of Kinyinya neighbourhood of Kigali. (John Mbanda)

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura) has confirmed the closure of a facility belonging to Deutsche Welle (DW), saying the German broadcaster did not seek to renew its operational licence.

The relay station, which is based in Kinyinya Sector, Gasabo District, has been in existence for the past 50 years and will shut down its transmission today, and the dismantling of the equipment will start immediately thereafter, Rura said yesterday.

Patrick Nyirishema, the director-general of Rura, said the licence of DW will expire next year and that the Germans did not apply for a renewal to allow for the continued operation of the facility that has been serving the entire Africa and Europe.

The relay station is of short wave technology, which has since run almost obsolete as most radio stations now operate on frequency modulation, commonly known as FM.

“It is the DW decision to close their relay activities in Rwanda as they did in other countries,” he said, adding that the initial licence expired in 2011 and they sought a five-year extension, which was granted at the time.

Nyirishema said the shutting down  of the station may be attributed to financial constraints.

The annual operational cost of the facility is said to be €3.3 million (about Rwf2.4 billion), which is said to have led DW to cut down on its commercial short wave transmitters, hence giving up its relay station in Rwanda.

The Kinyinya facility is the only remaining relay station operated by DW.

When The New Times visited the station, on Thursday, Bernhard Ahlborn, the deputy director of the Garman firm, confirmed that the closure is due to the looming expiration of their licence to operate in Rwanda, which ends in August, next year.

“We are stopping our short wave transmitters tomorrow (today) and then next week we will start dismantling them and the masts in order to meet the deadline of August next year when our licence expires,” he said.

However, despite the closure of the relay, Ahlborn said the DW radio listeners can still tune on via short waves as usual because DW has already started paying airtime to a Madagascan company for the signal transmission to the whole of Africa.

He said the current 60 local employees in the station should not worry now because dismantling the station could take until August 2016 and DW has to vacate the premises by that date.

It was in 1965 when the Government of Rwanda signed an agreement with Deutsche Welle to operate a relay station in Kigali and, in return, DW provided assistance for the launch of a domestic Rwandan broadcasting station-Radio Rwanda.

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