In Dakar for the Rfi Challenge App Afrique Award and the launch of the sites “Rfi Savoirs” and “Rfi Afrique”, Marie-Christine Zaragoza, President and CEO of France Médias Monde says that Africa is at the heart Rfi and France24 programmes. Two entities that rely on Fmm hope to keep their contacts with the continent’s youths , listeners and viewers of tomorrow, thanks to the opportunities of new media.
Can you introduce us France Médias Monde?
France World Media is a national French broadcasting company, a public group that includes three media. Radio France International (Rfi), everyone here knows, is a radio that speaks in French but equally in other thirteen languages. Then there is France 24, TV in three languages, French, English and Arabic, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Finally, Monte Carlo Doualiya, an Arabic-language radio which celebrates its 45 years. And these three media are broadcast worldwide in fifteen languages of expression of the entire group. FMM has a very dense network of correspondents, with 400 correspondents and 142 radio stations for television. Our media gather every week on their channels, 100 million people who are listening and watching us. And we count 30 million visits to our websites each month and up to 35 million followers on Facebook and Twitter.
This is a truly global group, bringing a singular editorial. It is a French and Francophone perspective on the world, although there are 66 nationalities in the group and we speak fifteen languages in total. And we speak from Paris. Liberty, equality, fraternity, secularism, human rights, equality of men and women … are the basis of common values of the three media, even if they are different in their format. We put public services for the whole group, communication, for example, or distribution, technology, finance, human resources, digital environments … These services are transverse and work for the group as a whole.
And what is the purpose of your current visit to Dakar?
There are several reasons. Last December, we launched a competition across all francophone African countries, to ask young entrepreneurs to imagine applications, digital offerings to improve health on the continent. We imagined it with Claire Hédon, who presents the programme “Priorité Santé” on Rfi, also relocated to Dakar on this occasion. It will particularly address the “role of digital technology in access to care and training of health professionals.” We received Rfi Challenge App for Africa, 650 applications from 21 countries in all areas of health, from malaria to motherhood moving on to vaccinations and the jury meets tomorrow (yesterday-Editor’s note). We have several finalists and a special award to a young Senegalese who also impressed the jury with his offering … This is a first edition and we hope to renew it every year to raise young entrepreneurs to empower them develop their digital offerings.
Before this award, there were already other competitions aimed at Africa. What is the place of Africa in the programmes of entities of France Media World?
I would say it is almost the heart of the group, in particular France and Rfi 24. Rfi has a dedicated signal for Africa. In Dakar, we will officially launch a new site, “Rfi Afrique.” This is a site where we combine the richness of our information on Africa; the access to live Rfi radio is simplified. And a news feed offers all African issues in real time, in all areas, and a Tweets selection . And then, as always at Rfi, there are at the same time the reactivity but also the time of stepping back and decryption. Rfi Africa can explain, put in perspective and finally the site is fully interactive. Because you notice that when we speak of the place of Africa, we must talk about the place of African listeners. They build the Rfi antenna, you hear it at Juan Gomez in “Appels sur l’actualité”, they are involved in the programme “Priorité Santé” by Claire Hédon but also in “7 milliards de voisins” by Emmanuelle Bastide . African listeners make up the antenna together with our journalists. It is also our way to Africa at the heart of Rfi. Also, we develop African languages; we already had Swahili and Hausa. We launched the Mandingo last October. It has also launched French learning methods from African languages including Wolof. I came here to launch this programme, during the Francophonie Summit in 2014, in Dakar. And then Rfi programme is the benchmark for Africa worldwide. In France, for example at Sciences Po, teachers tell students, if you are studying and want to understand Africa, go on Rfi and read Rfi sites. On France 24, there are two daily news broadcasts African, French and English. Everywhere in the world where we broadcast, we are a mouthpiece of Africa. And all our emissions of France 24 regularly treat Africa, whether in “Reporters” or “Billet Retour” for example. Africa is everywhere, it is treated as a continent that is central to our antennas. A continent that has enormous potential and is trying to grow in strength every day.
Beyond Africa, there is also the Francophone world. What are the relations of France with the OIF World Media?
With France 24 and Rfi, two signals in French and sites in French, with French learning … we are in the heart of la Francophonie. And besides, I signed an agreement this year with the OIF in the presence of the Secretary General of the Francophonie, Michaëlle Jean. We do many things in partnership with the OIF; the Prix Rfi-Découvertes, for example. We publish a quarterly magazine called “Francophonie”, where the French-speaking world expresses itself in all areas and from around the world. On the digital side, when OIF launched “Libre Ensemble “, a platform for young Francophones, we have been partners of the launch and we have a lot relayed on our airwaves, our sites and on social networks. We also cover widely summits, which are important moments. We are preparing already for Madagascar, as we have been present in Dakar.
We also talk a lot about our culture antennas. We were again this year at Cannes, with the “Cinémas du Monde” pavillion, which are all African filmmakers attending the festival are to be found. All African filmmakers appear on the airwaves of France 24 and R, which has a programme “Tous les Cinémas du Monde” that miss nothing that happens on African cinema.
So culture, for we Francophones, is a very strong link that connects us. A unique link because we realise that the place that culture is granted is not the same as in other linguistic areas in the world. Culture, for the French-speaking peoples, is a collective heart beat.
Does France Médias Monde have a special relationship with the African media or Senegal?
Absolutely, and on many levels. Here we have an agreement with the Senegalese Radio Television (Rts). The first Fm transmitter of Rfi is in Senegal, it was launched in 1991. And it is Rts, which handles our distribution in the country, where today we have 9 Fm transmitters. If today the Senegalese can hear Rfi, thanks to the Rts. Obviously, we have agreements on the training of journalists and technicians. We do a lot of cooperation with the France Media World Academy, but also with “Rfi-Planète Radio” which helps in places, for example, where there is no electricity, no energy to mount a radio with animal power or palm oil. We talked this morning (last Monday) during a meeting with the director of Rts of digital projects, share best practices together. But we also have agreements with radios that are not public: associative radios. There are 25 which take parts of our programmes. There are indeed who relay our half hour in Mandinka.
Finally, I would recall that a Senegalese singer Maréma, won the Prix-Discoveries last year. So we have very close ties with Senegal. Listeners and viewers rate us well: we record strong audience ratings. Rfi is ranked in the Top 5 of the most listened-to radio stations. 76% of managers and executives listen at least once a week; nearly 30% of 15 and over. France 24, nearly 35% of the 15 and over listen every week. On the Internet, 318,000 monthly visitors were on Rfi, up 22% in 2016 compared to 2015. And France 24 has more than 410,000 Senegalese surfers who visit the site each month. We suggest at least four subjects that speak of Senegal each week on our antennas which are accessible globally. For example, we recently covered the Dak’art biennial, but obviously we cover the news constantly on Senegal. We have five correspondents and France 24 Rfi here!
What will new media or digital television change in your dealings with these entities mentioned above?
First, the problems are not the same from one country to another. The digital level of development is not the same. Africa is a young continent, where over the majority of the population is under 25 years. These new technologies, these new uses, first are the prerogative of the young. And for us, it is very important to keep this contact with our listeners, viewers of tomorrow. Especially since it is important that these new media, it offers quality information. This is not because we are young, we are not demanding. So we demand, we bring on new media too. What it changes is that we no longer just the cable, satellite, TNT, Fm to make accessible; but also all that is digital platform … for example on Youtube, we have three channels of France 24 live. Many people come watch us also that way. It multiplies the ways to watch, but it also requires us to decline our programmes. For it is not the same handwriting. We now know that mobile video is a major challenge. When I say mobile video is the generic term, it’s going to design-motion animation through computer graphics. All these new ways to decline the information, sometimes without sound, in minutes, are developing at full speed. It must be “in the know” meet the expectations of these new audiences. Listeners and viewers are not passive; they already were not so much about Rfi, particularly African listeners, who are very active! But it is spreading, they react to what we say, they make suggestions, they have opinions. This gives the debates. For example, on the website of “Rfi Savoirs” that we just launched here in Dakar, a pre-view before France, it is a site threefold. There is a section to learn French, then another to learn in French, and a site where everyone can discuss their knowledge. A great teacher can answer students.
This learners and knowledgeable community is found on the website. That’s great. There are some years we could not be networked worldwide. Having an Asian student and an African professor who answers for example. These new digital tools offer many possibilities, but also open up many dangers. Because young people when they are alone with the Internet, without the family, are more vulnerable. We can manipulate you, there are risks of propaganda and radicalisation. So these issues, we work with many experts worldwide. In France in particular, we have an agreement with the Ministry of Education, our journalists attend schools. They come here to the French Lycée in Dakar to explain to students how to differentiate between information and propaganda. One should not be fooled, we must recognise when a photo is fake, how an image is diverted, a comment falsified. So that our young people are equipped to be true citizens on the Internet and choose their opinions; not to be manipulated. This is very important for the future.
Interview by Omar DIOUF
(Photo: Mbacke BA)