Ehiopia’s first FM radio station broadcasting in the English language began pre-test broadcasting approximately a week ago.
The station, run by Paconet Media Plc, incorporated in January 2008 with an initial capital of about 3 million Br, originally planned to turn on its transmitters September 1, 2008. However it experienced delay and began the six-day test broadcast May 29, 2009.
Paconet is owned by Addis Alemayehou and his wife, Martha Wondimu. Addis is the chief of party of VEGA Ethiopia, a USAID programme that assists private companies in Ethiopia in effectively exploiting AGOA opportunities.
The family owned company was licensed by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority in March 2008 to start the radio station on FM band 105.3. AfroFM plans to officially inaugurate its radio station within the coming 60 days, Addis told Fortune.
The station now airs mainly infotainment content with a mix of local and international news from 6:00am up to midnight. The station plans to work with other local media organizations for content development.
“Obviously this type of business is not something that we are going to do alone,” Addis, major shareholder and managing director of Paconet, said. “So we need other media and individuals to work with us in terms if sharing ideas and content development for the new local radio station.”
Though, at the moment, Paconet’s station broadcasts for 18 hours a day, the company plans to eventually broadcast 24 hours seven days a week.
The air time expansion will depend on the availability of content; the content will also be accessible on the station’s yet to be developed website, according to Addis.
The transmitter and other studio equipment were imported from Britain and Italy four weeks ago, the Managing Director said.
The foundation of this radio station is based on the owner’s belief that the international community in Addis Abeba has no way of knowing what is happening in the city because there is no media providing them continuous information in a language they can understand.
The target audience is made up of emerging foreign investors and the Diaspora in Addis Ababa – the seat of the African Union (AU), United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and other international organizations that make the city the world’s largest diplomatic community out side of New York, with over 100 diplomatic missions. Addis states that he is not only trying to target foreign nationals, but the news coverage of AfroFM will focus on local business, politics, entertainment and other socio-cultural affairs as well.
Addis claims that he has been trying to start the English language FM for eight years but could not get the green light from authorities until last year.
Addis Alemayehou, who grew up in Kenya and moved to Canada before he came back home to Ethiopia, says the foreign community has so far been neglected by the media in Ethiopia. Though AfroFM is the first ever English private broadcasting service in Ethiopia, the Amharic commercial broadcasting in Addis Abeba has been dominated by prior stations like FanaFM, ShegerFM, ZamiFM and AddisFM in the past few years. There are also four community broadcasting services in Ethiopia – Kore, Kambata, Bonga and Jimma. Public broadcasting services have been awarded only to federal and regional government running , radio stations .
The full operation of the new radio station is expected to create 15 to 30 job opportunities, according to its owners.
By MERGA YONAS | (Fortune)
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