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Cablegate: Belgian International Radio Comes to Kinshasa

VZCZCXYZ0035
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKI #1066 1861008
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051008Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4292
INFO RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 2912
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1113
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0154
RUEHLC/AMEMBASSY LIBREVILLE 2640
RUEHLGB/AMEMBASSY KIGALI 4760
RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 4052

UNCLAS KINSHASA 001066

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/PDPA, AF/C, IIP/G/AF
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECPS SCUL CG BE KPAO
SUBJECT: BELGIAN INTERNATIONAL RADIO COMES TO KINSHASA


Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for Internet Distribution.

1. (U) Summary: Belgian international FM radio now broadcasts to
the world's second French-language city, Kinshasa. It competes with
RFI, BBC, VOA and Africa No.1. Its success will likely depend upon
its getting a reporter on the ground in the DRC. End Summary

2. (U) On June 26, Belgian International Radio (RTBFi) began FM
French-language broadcasts to Kinshasa, 24 hours a day. The
occasion was marked by a direct broadcast at dawn from the
Wallonie-Brussels Cultural Center in Kinshasa, hosted by the
Delegate to the DRC for the Belgian French-language Community, Fredy
Jacquet. Present at the Center were the Community Minister for
International Relations, Marie Dominique Simonet, and Jean-Paul
Philippot, the head of RTBF. Also at the microphone were GDRC
Information Minister Henry Mova Sakanyi, the head of DRC state
television and radio, Emmmanuel Kipolongo, and President Modeste
Mutinga of the High Media Authority. The studio audience asked
questions, as did some listeners in Belgium.

3. (U) In discussion since 2004, an agreement was signed in December
2005 to build an FM link in Kinshasa for RTBFi, which has been on
short wave here since the late 1990s. The start-up cost to the
Region of Wallonie was about 100,000 euros, according to Simonet.
RTBFi changed satellites in February 2006 to reach central Africa
with the same programming as that heard in Europe. Content includes
news, cultural programming, music, sports and, yes, rush-hour and
holiday traffic reports from Belgium.

4. (U) RTBFi (99.2 FM) joins BBC (92.7 FM), RFI (105 FM and 93.2 FM
in neighboring Brazzaville), and Africa No. 1 (102 FM). VOA is
selectively rebroadcast by RAGA radio (90.5 FM), and picked up via
satellite by a few other Congolese radio stations. RFI is the most
listened-to international radio in the capital of this former
Belgian colony.

5. (U) During the live broadcast on June 26, Congolese Information
and Press Minister Mova obliquely referred to the DRC's Belgian
colonial past. He playfully trumped the RTBFi announcer, who used
French numbering, by repeating the frequency the Belgian way:
nonante-neuf point deux. The Belgian delegation made much of the
fact that Kinshasa had a population of nearly eight million, and was
the second largest French-speaking conglomerate in the world.

6. (SBU) Unlike its international competitors, including VOA, RTBFi
has no Kinshasa-based reporters or stringers, making Belgian radio
essentially a one-way affair. Wallonie Delegate Jacquet told PAO
that RTBFi will likely do more to generate reporting from the DRC.

7. (SBU) Comment: Fickle Kinshasa, with 30 television channels and
as many FM radio stations (of a total of 196 for all of the DRC),
may lose its enthusiasm for newcomer RTBFi if, indeed, more is not
done to give voice to the Congolese in its broadcasts. End Comment

Meece

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