South Sudan is the world’s youngest and most fragile country and its media landscape reflects these challenges. While the media sector has made gains in recent years, it remains challenged by a rapidly changing environment and a population lacking access to reliable and trustworthy information. Also, there is a lack of reliable data on the extent of the population’s information needs and media access.
These challenges are further exacerbated by conflict that has once again developed into civil war and an ensuing widespread humanitarian crisis since December 2013. Despite the immense problems that South Sudan faces, its media landscape provides significant opportunities for growth.
Internews commissioned Forcier Consulting to conduct an audience survey in South Sudan. While the ongoing security situation prevents coverage of the country on a fully national basis, this study set out to collect information on South Sudanese media access and consumption to inform the strategies and programming of media houses and media initiatives.
This study is the first detailed analysis of the media landscape in South Sudan since the wide-scale conflict began in December 2013. Conducted across the country in April 2015, this survey collected data on media usage from 3,710 respondents. This survey does not purport to be nationally representative, but rather, is representative of the population that could be safely accessed in April 2015.
This survey produced a wealth of knowledge about the media landscape in South Sudan, including:
- There are a sizeable number of people who have never had access to any form of media or device. Roughly one in three (34%) respondents have never had access to radio, television, newspapers, internet, or mobile phones.
- Overall, radio remains the most commonly accessed type of media (51%).
- While access to television, newspapers and internet remains sparse at the national level, mobile phone penetration levels are nearing levels of radio access. Overall, 44% of respondents have access to a mobile phone.
- As media access increases, trust in radio as a source of information also increases. Furthermore, those with media access tend to choose radio as their source of news and information, even if they have access to other forms of media.
- Regardless of media access, radio broadcasts are thought to help reduce conflict and provide vital safety information.
The following items are recommended for the media sector to act upon on the basis of the findings in the report:
- Expand opportunities for women’s involvement with and access to media. Women have far lower levels of media access than men. Furthermore, it is uncommon for respondents to hear women express their opinions in public settings or on the radio or television. Determining how to reduce or remove obstacles to women’s access should be further researched and media houses should ensure that women’s voices are included in coverage of South Sudanese issues.
- Augment radio’s role as a means of conflict resolution and a source of vital information. Respondents tend to view radio favorably, with almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents saying information from the radio has helped keep them safe and 67% saying radio broadcasts in their area help to reduce conflict. Peacebuilding practitioners or actors with vital life-saving information should strongly consider sharing such messages via radio.
- Monitor growth in internet usage vis-à-vis newspaper weekly reach along with internet-related activities conducted via mobile phone. The national weekly reach of both internet (7%) and newspapers (10%) are similar, which suggests rates of regular internet usage are not far behind rates of regular newspaper readership. In addition, mobile phone penetration (44%) is nearly as high as radio access (51%) and 85% of respondents with internet access own a mobile phone themselves.
Read the full report