Professional expertise, an institutional structure and an efficient business model are all essential to making a strong, independent radio station sustainable in a crisis zone. There are many ideas on how to generate revenue, but up to now the main source remains advertising.
When Fondation Hirondelle creates a new media outlet in a crisis zone, it seeks straight away to make it sustainable and dedicates resources, for example, to setting up an advertising agency. The aim is twofold: to generate revenue for the new media outlet, but also to create a pool with other local radio stations.
This has not always been a concern. The first Fondation Hirondelle radio stations were set up in response to emergency situations of extreme gravity. In such cases, you do not think about the institutional sustainability of your media. But when you realize that listeners want it to last, the sustainability question arises.
For Fondation Hirondelle, the question first arose in Liberia in 2005 with Star Radio. In a context of economic and political reconstruction in the country, Fondation Hirondelle developed a commercial section within the radio. Its role was to get advertising to broadcast for a fee. This hit various problems. With resources limited, the now autonomous management of Star Radio saw the recruitment of a sales person primarily as one journalist less. The line between the editorial and commercial departments was not clearly defined enough. And above all, the commercial department was not managed professionally enough.
This experience led Fondation Hirondelle to set up at Radio Ndeke Luka in the Central African Republic an advertising agency separate from the radio. It has separate offices and its aims are purely commercial. In an economy which is nevertheless weak, this advertising agency has for several years been meeting the challenge of creating financial autonomy for Radio Ndeke Luka. The process takes time. You need to create a market and set rates, in a context where this type of market hardly exists.