Radio is widely considered to be the most powerful medium of communication in Somali society, in view of its compatibility with Somali oral culture. Infact, the history of radio in Somaliland is inseparable from the political history of the territory, as this section clearly illustrates.
The first experimental radio broadcast in Somaliland began in 1941, under the British Military Administration. Testing continued until December 1942 when Radio Kudu was established with a 100-Watt transmitter, subsequently strengthened to 600-watts (Johnson, 1966). Radio Kudu was the first Somali language radio worldwide and served primarily to consolidate colonial rule in Somaliland. Government announcements, policies and regulations were disseminated through this medium of communication (Radio) and the Somali speaking audience was exposed to British norms and values.
In 1944 Radio Kudu was renamed Radio Hargeysa, Radio Somali and transmission power was gradually increased from 1 kilowatt in 1945 to 5 kilowatts in 1957. With the invention of the transistor, radios spread to Somali owned teashops and private individuals (Johnson, 96).
The British responded to the Egyptian challenge by installing new equipment for receiving British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) transmissions in 1955, transforming the Radio Hargeisa transmitter into a relay station, and by launching the BBC Somali Service together with the Hausa and Swahili Services in 1956 (BBC 40 years). Prior to independence, the British upgraded the Radio Hargeisa transmitter to 10 kilowatts and 18 years later, the Somalis themselves installed a 25 KW MW transmitting facility, more emphasis by the original Somali Republic was, naturally, put on the nation-wide Muqdisho Radio (UNESCO Mission Report, 98).
Since its inception in the colonial days and even long after the independence, Radio Hargeisa had served as a broader institution than a mere radio station. Multiple activities were performed under the auspices of Radio Hargeisa. It served as an organizing institution for the artists as most of the musicians, actors and singers of the time survived under it while feeding the radio with songs and short plays. In addition, there was a photography unit that was run by the management of the Radio. The photography unit was responsible in filming and documenting most of the events and had rich historical archives of photographs that were unfortunately lost during the civil war. The Radio management also ran the “War-Somaali-side”. (Somali news carrier) a weekly English paper published by the colonial administration. The management of Radio Hargeisa carried out all these activities and in essence it served as the information department of the colonial administration, a function it had run for years. In later years of Siyaad Barre’s regime, the Ministry of Information assumed most of these activities.
2. Current Status
Since 1999 Radio Hargeisa has operated on the 41-meter short wave band and the 693 medium-wave, using a transmitter donated by the government of Yemen. And FM transmitter, supplied by the BBC, was installed on July 12, 2001 so as to enhance the reception of the BBC programs in Hargeisa. At the same time, Radio Hargeisa began broadcasting on the Internet (www.radiohargaysa.com) for one hour and a half each day for the Somaliland community in the Diaspora.
Improvement in the quality of programs has kept pace with the improved infrastructure and broadcasting capacity. Radio Hargeisa’s recording library, an unrivalled asset, has helped to attract a broader audience through entertainment programs. English, Arabic and Amharic services have been added.
The Amharic Services was introduced on March 21st, 2002 and was limited on a news bulletin for five minutes only. It became so popular and by the following week it was increased to twenty minutes a day. Today we are broadcasting a fourty minutes programme a day and according to the feed back of our audiences we are in the process off increasing it to 90 minutes a day.
Technical standards of Radio Hargeisa have been enhanced thanks to successive training courses offered by the BBC along with a qualified decision makers who are running the Ministry at this critical stage. However, the radio’s audience remains relatively limited: The AM broadcast can be heard only in the immediate vicinity of Hargeysa; short-wave broadcasts can occasionally be heard further afield but most Somalilanders lack the advantage to listen Radio Hargeisa on a reliable manner.
3. Management and Policies
Since the start of post-war period in Somaliland, the Ministry of Information and National Guidance has been engaged in enhancing the task of mass communication and awareness to improve the knowledge, attitude and practice(KAT) of our people.
Responding to these challenges, the MOING has made additional improvements, under the circumstance. The expansion of Radio Hargeisa transmissions and the establishment of other media outlets, such as the film, News and Radio outreach programs have started to yield some effective and broad-based programs.
However, it became difficult to respond to all f the various demands of the community for outreach programs. Neither it could be possible for the MOING to effectively change or introduce new media applications without seeking needed capacity building assistance from the International Community and friendly countries. Certainly, these are a pre-requisite conducive for the setting of objectivity oriented programs and researched development plans that are essential for our communication achievements in the future.
4. Program Schedule & Frequency:
Despite the various difficulties that faced Radio Hargeisa, it has managed to expand its transmission to 70 Hours per week. Three (3) different daily transmissions are being broadcast in the mornings, afternoons and evening. And our frequency is (MW 693 KHZ and SW 41 Meter band)
One of the most significant developments made during the year was the expansion of Radio Hargeisa transmission time to 3650 Hours per annum (From 2688 Hrs per annum). These were categorized in accordance to the following table:
Kind of Program Hours per annum Percentage
- Education programs 1460 40%
- Information programs 1280 35%
- Entertainment programs 910 25%
Total 3650 100%
Despite the great support of the Somaliland government and continuous efforts of the ministry of information to upgrade the current conditions of Radio Hargeisa, we are still seeking a sound assistance to enable us technically to regain our dynamic and glorified role in the regional mass media.
Various technical problems and the lack of a reliable transmitter coupled with lack of spare parts have started to blurr the clarity of our transmission and minimized the range of our broadcast.
Acknowledging that the Radio is the only medium of communication in our society; and now that Somaliland is embarking on an ambitious democratization process to obtain a reliable transmitter is of paramount importance to our people. This will further ensure their full participation in the upcoming back to back elections in a fair and just manner.