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Annual Review 2003/04
 
 
A year in review
Africa
Listener with Radio, Uganda
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SIGNIFICANT CULTURALLY AND SOCIALLY

The BBC's audiences across Africa grew significantly last year with the expansion of FM distribution and amid heightened interest in international news in the aftermath of the Iraq war. Across the continent, the BBC is as much a part of their everyday media experience as it is for people in Britain.

'The BBC's African Services are part of the fabric of Africa,' says Jerry Timmins, Head of Africa and Middle East Region. 'Africans turn to the BBC for news about what is happening at home and how international events will affect their lives. There is a real hunger for objective, impartial information. People want to know what is going on, why decisions are made and what the impact is going to be on them.'

During the year, the number of weekly listeners to BBC programmes increased from 61.5 million to 68.5 million across Africa and the Middle East. The strong performance in sub-Saharan Africa was led by the English, Swahili and Hausa Services. Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria are key markets. In Ghana, the BBC is the leading broadcaster, domestic or foreign. In Tanzania, where BBC programmes are available on FM in Dar es Salaam and other major cities, more than11million people now listen – 60% of the population.

The BBC's relationship with audiences drew closer with the introduction of new interactive programmes such as Africa Live. It was the first full year for the weekly forum, which invites opinions on everything from the African brain drain to alcohol abuse. Debates were hosted in multiple locations across the continent, uniting audiences from the west, east and south.

'Many Africans are not slow in coming forward to voice their opinions and we and more and more people want to join in the conversation on the BBC,' says Jerry Timmins. 'Texts are cheap and immediate and more accessible in many parts of Africa than the internet.'

Upsurge in contributions

News and current affairs programmes such as Network Africa and Focus On Africa experienced an upsurge in contributions from the growing number of mobile phone users. 'On Network Africa we now sprinkle messages all through the programme as people react instantly to the stories they hear,' says the programme's editor, Joseph Warungu. 'We regularly receive more than 100 messages in one morning and there was an amazing response when we asked people to be 'editor for the day'. People from all over Africa are now taking part and communicating with us and with each other. Through the BBC, the continent seems to have become much smaller than it used to be.'

The Swahili Service now attracts the largest single audience One of the most popular Swahili programmes is Dira Ya Dunia (The Compass of the World), a daily round-up of news and current affairs, features and sport. Investment in local studio facilities in a number of east African countries has brought Swahili reporters closer to listeners and provided higher quality material for FM broadcasts.

Breadth of coverage

'Listeners particularly rely on programmes such as Dira Ya Dunia for international news because local stations are not able to provide the same breadth of coverage from Africa and other parts of the world,' says Tido Mhando, Swahili Service Editor. 'We are able to report in Swahili from countries including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. We also have our own correspondents in key countries such as India and the United States. Local radio stations regularly pick up reports from our internet site - they made extensive use of our coverage of the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda massacre, for example.'

During the year, the BBC's network of African correspondents provided outstanding coverage from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda, as well as Rwanda. They analysed attempts to broker peaceful solutions to conflicts in Sudan and Somalia. Awards were made to the Portuguese Service and Beatrice Murail of the French Service, who received the UN Foreign Correspondent's Prize for her coverage of refugees.

The BBC has a significant role in the continent's cultural and social life. African writers took centre stage in the African Performance season, which featured commissioned works and winners of the BBC 2004 Playwriting Competition. In Nigeria, a major public education project Voices, through the BBC World Service Trust, was launched.

For Africa's millions of football fans, the BBC's coverage of the African Cup of Nations was stronger than ever. A reporter from Ray Power FM, one of the BBC's partners in Nigeria, worked with the on-air team. The Arabic Service joined African language teams for the first time to bring live match reports to listeners.

'AFRICANS TURN TO THE BBC FOR NEWS ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING AT HOME. THERE IS A REAL HUNGER FOR OBJECTIVE, IMPARTIAL INFORMATION'...
African Cup of Nations Many voices, one world Kigali, Rwanda
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A year in review
Africa
 
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