Haiti Media and Telecoms Landscape Guide

Reports & Surveys

Infoasaid produced this media landscape guide about Haiti in October 2011.

Media overview

  • Radio is the most popular of source of news and information in Haiti.
  • Nearly every household has a radio set, and many people listen to the radio on their mobile phone.
  • A media consumption survey of 4,907 people across Haiti, conducted by the local market research firm DAGMAR in November 2010, found that 96% in Port-au-Prince listened to the radio every day.
  • The survey, undertaken on behalf of USAID, also revealed high radio listening rates in the nearby town of Léogane, 35 km from the capital, and the more distant communes of Saint-Marc, Cap-Haïtien and Petit Goâve.
  • The most popular types of radio programme cited in the survey were news (64%), music (11.4%), religious programmes (9.7%) and sports programmes (4.7%).
  • Haitian radio stations broadcast mainly in Creole, but some also use French.
  • The DAGMAR survey showed that radio was the preferred source of information for 83.7% of respondents.
  • Only 7.4% said they preferred television.
  • Television viewing is limited to people who have access to a regular supply of electricity. Haiti’s mains electricity is unreliable, so that that normally means acess to a generator or a large battery.
  • Research by the US-based media development organisation, Internews, in 2011 indicated that only a third of Haitians had access to TV.
  • Few Haitians can afford to buy a newspaper regularly, and only half the adult population can read and write.
  • However, newspapers remain an influential source of news and information for the population as a whole.
  • Newspapers with websites command a large online readership, especially among the diaspora.
  • Radio stations meanwhile frequently quote from newspaper articles in their news bulletins.
  • The daily Le Nouvelliste and the weekly Le Matin are particularly popular and influential. Both are published in French

Crowded radio sector

  • According to Internews, there were about 375 radio stations on air air across Haiti in late 2012.
  • 56 of these were based in Port-au-Prince.
  • Most Haitian radio stations are small privately owned FM stations, with limited means to produce programmes and gather news.
  • Their broadcasts concentrate on local issues of immediate relevance to their target audience. They carry a lot of music, phone-ins and discussion programmes.
  • Most are very small outfits, with a single studio and FM transmitter.
  • Very few broadcasters have a truly national reach.
  • However, some of the larger Port-au-Prince radio stations, such as Caraïbes FM, Radio Ginen and Vision 2000, have relay transmitters in other large towns and partner FM stations which relay some of their programmes.
  • Their programmes are also picked up and rebroadcast spontaneously, and without authorisation by other FM stations around the country.
  • Radio Ginen broadcasts on FM from eight transmitters across Haiti. It also broadcasts on Medium Wave from Port-au-Prince. This gives it a wider reach than most other stations in the country.
  • The Baptist radio station Radio Lumière, the commercial station Radio Vision 2000, and Minustah FM, the radio station of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti, also have transmitter networks which give them a broad national reach.
  • Radio Métropole and Radio Kiskeya, two other popular stations in the capital, do not have transmitters elsewhere in the country, but their flagship programmes are widely relayed by other stations.
  • Caraïbes FM, a talk radio station with a varied mix of programming, is the most popular station in Port-au-Prince, according to the DAGMAR survey.
  • t gave Caraïbes FM a market share of 23%.
  • DAGMAR identified the other most popular stations in the capital as Radio Ginen (10%), Horizon 2000 (7.7%) and Radio Lumière (7.6%).
  • State-run Radio Nationale d’Haïti (RNH), lagged in 19th place with an audience share of only 1%.
  • The DAGMAR survey showed that in the interior of Haiti, local radio stations were often more popular than those broadcasting from the capital.
  • Many Haitians listen to the radio on their mobile phone.
  • More than 4.5 million Haitians own a mobile handset. That makes radio very accessible.
  • According to the DAGMAR survey, the peak periods for radio listening are between 05.30 and 08.30 in the morning, and between 18.00 and 19.30 at night.
  • There is also a small spike in radio audiences at lunchtime, between 12.30 and 13.30.
  • Many of the larger radio stations, such as Caraïbes FM, Radio Ginen, Vision 2000, Radio Métropole and Radio Nationale d’Haïti (RNH) - produce decent news and current affairs programmes.
  • But like the rest of Haiti’s radio stations, they suffer from two major flaws.
    • One is a habit of reporting politics from the narrow power play perspective of Haiti’s ruling elite, instead of analysing the political, economic and social issues that affect their listeners’ everyday lives.
    • The other is an unwillingness to edit interviews. Lengthy monologues fill up air time, but do not help listeners to grasp essential information.
  • Talk shows with phone-ins are popular, but the production quality of such programmes is often very low.

Television

  • Television is popular amongst people with access to a regular supply of electricity, especially in the main towns.
  • Most Haitian TV stations are very small and have limited capacity to produce their own programming.
  • They mainly show films played from DVDs and sports programmes, and entertainment shows pirated from foreign satellite broadcasters.
  • A large percentage of TV programmes shown are therefore in French rather than Creole.
  • There were about 60 TV stations on air across Haiti in 2012, of which 20 were based in the capital.
  • The largest and most popular TV stations, including Télé Caraïbes, Télé Ginen and Télé Métropole, and state-run Télévision Nationale d’Haïti, belong to media groups which also own popular radio stations.
  • This synergy gives them the technical capacity and the staff resources to produce their own news and current affairs programmes, as well as other TV productions.
  • Although only a minority of Haitians manage to watch television, TV ranks second after radio as a trusted source of information.
  • The DAGMAR survey found that 58.8% of respondents regarded radio as the most reliable source of information, but a significant 27.5% put their trust in television.
  • The church, SMS messages and the internet lagged far behind with “most trusted” ratings of less than 3% each.
  • Télé Caraïbes is the most popular TV station in Port-au-Prince. It is the TV stablemate of Caraïbes FM, the most widely listened to radio station in the capital.
  • The DAGMAR survey showed that Télé Caraïbes commanded a 21.1% share of the city’s television audience.
  • Télé Ginen, the sister TV station of Radio Ginen, came second with an audience share of 13.2%.
  • State-run Télévision National d’Haïti (TNH) was in third place with 9.2%.
  • DAGMAR found that the average Haitian television viewer only watches four to six hours of TV per week.
  • This is low compared to North America. In Canada, for example, the average weekly viewing time is 26.5 hours.
  • The lack of a reliable mains electricity supply in Haiti probably accounts for this difference.
  • The peak TV viewing period is between 19.00 and 22.00 at night. On some channels, late afternoon soap operas also attract a strong audience.

Newspapers

  • All Haitian newspapers publish in French.
  • They are only readily accessible to the educated elite in Port-au-Prince and a handful of other cities.
  • However, the internet has also allowed the main newspapers to build up a large online readership, both within Haiti and the diaspora overseas.
  • All the same, newspapers are completely beyond the reach of half the adult population of Haiti which cannot read or write.
  • Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s only daily newspaper, has a regular print run of 15,000.
  • Le Matin, the country’s leading weekly, prints 10,000 copies, but half of these are distributed free.
  • Nearly 26% of the 2,848 literate people interviewed for the DAGMAR survey said they read a newspaper. About half said they did so online.
  • According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), over 800,000 Haitians used the the internet to some extent in 2011.
  • But the DAGMAR survey found that Haitians mainly used the internet to make Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone calls, send private emails and exchange instant messages.
  • Only 6.2% of internet users said they used the web as a source of news and information.
  • DAGMAR found that Le Nouvelliste was by far the most popular newspaper in Haiti. It was read by 62% of all respondents who said they read a newspaper.
  • Le Matin lagged a distant second on 14.6%.

Press freedom and media regulation

  • The Haitian media has flourished since the fall of the Duvalier regime in 1986, in the absence of formal state controls.
  • Radio and TV licenses are issued by the state-run Conseil National des Télécommunications (CONATEL) solely on the basis of technical considerations. Applicants must also a pay a fee.
  • CONATEL does not regulate or monitor broadcast content.
  • There is no specific legislation governing the internet, but the government has never attempted to impose any controls on web access.
  • Community radio stations have flourished since 1986. By 2012, there were about 40 of them on air. However, Haiti does not have any special legislation to protect or promote their activity.
  • The Sosyete Animasyon Kominikasyon (SAKS), an NGO which has helped to set up 20 community radio stations in Haiti, has drafted a bill to define and protect the special status of community radio stations.
  • This has been presented to parliament.
  • In December 2011, Haiti’s main media associations adopted a code of conduct that defines the rights and duties of the Haitian media.
  • This is the first media code to be adopted in Haiti. However, no organisation has been tasked with enforcing respect for its guidelines.
  • Given the lack of official constraints on the media and the low level of professional training of most journalists, the principles upheld by the new media code are frequently breached with impunity by local radio stations.
  • However, journalists and media owners are reluctant to support new legislation to regulate the media. They tend to equate this with the censorship and repression endured in the past.
  • In February 2012, journalists protested vigorously when President Michel Joseph Martelly called on the press to “keep quiet” unless it could present a “positive image” of Haiti.
  • The  Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières, ranked Haiti 52nd out of the 179 countries listed in its 2011/2012 Press Freedom Index.
  • That represented a dramatic improvement from 117th position six years earlier.
  • Another press freedom watchdog, New York-based Freedom House, noted in a 2011 report on Haiti that the media situation has “steadily improved over the past few years and there have been efforts to address violence against journalists and the related problem of impunity for past crimes”.
  • Political divisions within the media industry are also starting to heal.
  • An encouraging sign is growing cooperation between the country’s two main media associations; Association des Médias Indépendants (AMIH) and Association Nationale des Médias Haïtiens (ANMH).
  • AMIH was formerly characterised by its support for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
  • ANMH, on the other hand, was deeply hostile to the charismatic left-wing leader, who was twice elected head of state and was twice deposed by force.

Media pay and conditions

  • Haiti’s airwaves are crowded and there is little advertising revenue available to support so many radio and TV stations.
  • Few of them make a profit and all pay very low salaries to their staff.
  • Journalists in commercially viable radio stations earn between $100 and $250 a month.
  • Many are willing to accept bribes and other incentives from individuals and organisations to slant news coverage in their favour.
  • Media owners and news editors are reluctant to release their staff from normal duties for training or workshops, unless financial incentives to do so are offered.
  • Journalists selected to take part in such activities often expect to receive a per diem. Their bosses may also demand payment for releasing them.
  • Nearly all radio stations charge airtime fees for broadcasting humanitarian programming.
  • However, such payments do not always bolster the finances of the radio station. They are sometimes diverted directly to the owner’s own pocket.
  • Most media organisations experience a rapid turnover of staff.
  • Poorly-paid new recruits are constantly entering the profession, to replace more experienced journalists who have moved on to more lucrative jobs with international organisations, or who have gone abroad.
  • Haiti still lacks a good school of journalism to provide basic training.
  • Several private institutions offer courses in journalism and communications, but most of these are regarded as mediocre.
  • Quisqueya University’s Department of Communications has plans to introduce a two–year diploma course in journalism.
  • It already offers a Masters in Journalism, in partnership with a respected French journalism school; the Centre de Formation et de Perfectionnement des Journalistes (CFPJ) in Paris.

Consolidation of broadcasting

  • Some rationalisation of Haiti’s broadcasting sector is desirable in order to ensure that individual radio and TV stations become financially sustainable.
  • This process may already have started.
  • Patrick Moussignac, the owner of Radio Caraïbes and Télé Caraïbes, has purchased shares in several other radio stations.
  • By August 2012, he owned an interest in at least eight.
  • Haiti’s planned switchover to digital broadcasting in 2015 is likely to speed up the process of media consolidation, especially in television. 
  • Many small broadcasters cannot afford the new equipment that will be required.

Read a text version of the report

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