Thierno Diop is president and director of Bamtaare Dodel FM (103.4). Located in the department of Podore in the Sene region of Senegal, the station’s frequency reaches a radius of 70 to 100km. According to listeners, this isn’t nearly enough.
Mr. Diop recalls, “Many people called me … outside of Senegal, and within. [People] who wanted to listen to local information, who wanted to hear about the situation in our area.”
Each person wanted the same thing—to listen to Bamtaare FM from anywhere in the world.
Mr. Diop first tried to meet listeners’ needs by creating a station-specific WhatsApp group. He recalls how he and other station staff used the group to share daily highlights of news and information from their broadcasts. But their reach was limited; WhatsApp only allows 512 people per group, and anyone wishing to join needs an invitation.
Instead, the staff of Bamtaare FM created a website.
Now the station’s reach is virtually unlimited, as is listeners’ access to broadcasts, which are live streamed on the website each day. Anyone with internet access can listen anytime, anywhere.
Mr. Diop says the process of building the website took about 15 days from start to finish. The process began with choosing a name for the website, called a “domain.” The team chose bamtaarefm.com. Once this domain was purchased, a contractor populated it with content, including staff photos and a page for written articles. Finally, the website was connected to a streaming service so that anyone visiting bamtaarefm.com can listen to the live broadcast.
Mr. Diop says all this required a great deal of funding and credit. Breaking down the costs, he says that the station paid about 50 000 FCFA ($77 USD) for the domain, about 100 000 FCFA ($153 USD) to the consultant who put the content online, and finally, about 65 000 FCFA ($99 USD) for a subscription to an online streaming service called XSTREAM. In all, the website cost Bamtaare FM approximately 215 000 FCFA ($330 USD) to set up.
Each year going forward, the station must continue to pay 50 000 FCFA ($77 USD) to renew the domain, and 65 000 FCFA ($99 USD) to renew the streaming service subscription.
Mr. Diop notes that paying these many costs at once was quite difficult for Bamtaare FM. To do so, the station used a combination of revenues and loans, which Mr. Diop proudly notes were repaid in just three months.
He says, “Community radio in Senegal is difficult but we persist and we make it happen.”
Bamtaare FM has had its website for more than 3 months now. In that time, more than 320 people have visited it, including listeners in Senegal, Mauritania, America, France, and beyond.
In terms of feedback, Mr. Diop says, “What we’re hearing a lot at the moment … is that the connection is sometimes poor.”
He says that if the internet connection is poor for either the station or the listener, it is difficult to listen to the broadcast online. Nonetheless, listeners tell Mr. Diop that they’re satisfied with the website, and happy to hear news from home.
To other stations who may want to create a website, Mr. Diop says he recommends it—and he’s even willing to help by sharing Bamtaare FM’s process and contacts.
He adds that having a website can add value to a radio station in terms of increasing visibility, encouraging excellent programs, and even making money. He says that if enough people visit the website, Bamtaare FM could begin collecting ad revenue, as well as additional content such as written articles, photos, and videos, which would attract more visitors.
Over time, Mr. Diop also hopes to improve the website with this additional content, as well as promote the website via social media. Eventually, he hopes it can help Bamtaare FM to grow into an online television station.
Mr. Diop has this advice to share with his fellow broadcasters: “I encourage the … community radios in Senegal and in all of Africa to try to improve their condition. It is not our partners who develop us. The partners participate in the development of the community radios … but it really is the community radio stations who must do the work.”