South Sudan is the world’s youngest and most fragile country and its media landscape reflects these challenges. Decades of civil war with the Republic of Sudan were only recently resolved through a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 and later independence in 2011. The new nation maintains some of the world’s lowest development indicators. 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. Likewise, media sector actors lack 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 devolved 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.
In 2013, Internews commissioned the first nationally representative media survey that shed light on South Sudan’s media environment including the population’s access to media and listening behaviors.
The 2013 report, “South Sudan National Audience Survey: A Nationally Representative Assessment on Radio Listening Habits with Key Findings in Five Booster Areas for Internews Stations,” described the South Sudanese media environment as having a significant urban/rural divide in terms of access to and availability of media. However, it also found that radio remains the most accessible source of information for the majority of people in South Sudan.
Just a few months after the 2013 report was published conflict broke out in the capital Juba and quickly spread to other parts of the country. This civil war caused massive displacement of populations over a short time period in numbers that grew into the millions in the months following the outbreak. Not only has the conflict had pervasive effects in all essential parts of society such as security, livelihoods, food, health, and education, but also there are concerns of human rights violations by all parties to the conflict. As several media outlets came under threat, the information needs of the population grew even more acute.
Even after the signing of a peace deal in August 2015, the media sector continues to struggle in the volatile and fastchanging period following the conflict’s outbreak and information on the South Sudanese audience remains sparse.
In this context, Internews and other organizations committed to the growth and development of South Sudan’s media sector sought to develop a methodology to survey as much of the nation as possible.
While the ongoing security situation prevents coverage of the country on a fully national basis, the study sets out to collect information on South Sudanese media access and consumption to inform the strategies and programming of media houses and media initiatives. The current conflict jeopardizes the free and fair operation of media in the country, making media research even more critical. This assessment is based on insights and findings following the 2013 report and is the first detailed analysis of the media landscape in South Sudan since the wide-scale conflict began in December 2013.
Following a detailed, payam-level assessment of the accessibility in each of South Sudan’s ten states, a sampling strategy was designed to be as representative as possible given the limits imposed by the current conflict1.
Conducted across the country from April 1-25, 2015, this survey collected data on media usage from 3,710 respondents in all ten states. It must be noted that the sample design, fieldwork, and analysis were conducted prior to the Executive Order in October 2015 establishing 28 states in South Sudan. State-level findings in this report still refer to the previous administrative delineation of ten states.
Who is included in this survey?
Due to the ongoing conflict, it simply was not possible to include all areas of the country in the sample frame.
This survey does not purport to be nationally representative, but rather, is representative of the population that could be safely accessed in April 2015. The conflict-sensitive strategy for this study used a clearly defined and continually updated sampling frame of accessible areas. This not only benefits the current analysis by allowing for clarity and precision about what the sample represents, but is also more likely than other approaches to permit comparison with future samples.
To account for varying degrees of accessibility and representativeness at the state-level, states are considered in two general groups: those that werefully accessible and those that were partially accessible. In the case of the latter, findings are representative only of a subpopulation of the state, often restricted to urban centers. We note the following:
- Five states were fully accessible (representative at the state-level):
Central Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Western Equatoria.
- Five states were partially accessible (representative only of the accessible populations in specified areas): Eastern Equatoria, Lakes, Upper Nile (Malakal and Melut counties only), Unity (Leer county only), and Jonglei (Bor South county only).
- National-level findings comprise all observations in the fully accessible states and all observations from the partially accessible states. This represents the accessible population in the country.
- At the time of this survey, one of the largest ethnic groups, the Nuer, was largely displaced from their homes to United Nations Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites or to the inaccessible areas of the country. As a result, Nuer representation in particular is lower than it would be had the entire country been accessible.
- As is normal procedure in a household survey, sampling did not occur inside any PoC sites.
This survey produced a wealth of knowledge about the media landscape in South Sudan. The most notable findings include:
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. Furthermore, media is less accessible for women than it is for men. It is more common (39%) for women to never have had access to any type of media than for men (26%).
Overall, radio remains the most commonly accessed type of media (51%) and, not surprisingly, has a larger weekly reach (38%) than all other forms of media. This means that 4 out of 10 respondents listen to a radio on a weekly basis, roughly triple the rate of respondents who watch television on a weekly basis (13%) or read a newspaper on a weekly basis (10%).
While access to television, newspapers, and internet remains sparse, mobile phone penetration levels are nearing levels of radio access. Just one-quarter (24%) of respondents have ever watched television, with a national weekly reach of 13%. Just 1 out of 5 (18%) respondents have ever read a newspaper, with a national weekly reach of 10%. Fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) respondents have ever used the internet, with national weekly reach (usage) of 7%. As mobile phones are devices, not a type of media in and of themselves, rates of access are measured as penetration. Overall, 44% of respondents have access to a mobile phone: three out of ten (31%) respondents have their own mobile phone and 13% have access to the phone of someone close to them such as a friend or relative.
As media access increases, trust in radio as a source of information also increases.
Individuals who have never had access to media (no access) say they trust religious leaders (25%) or face-to-face conversations with friends or family (21%) the most as sources of information, while individuals with high access to media trust the radio (69%) the most.
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.
Individuals with a high level of access to media tend to prefer getting their news and information from the radio (70%).
Television viewers tended to view radio as a main source of information (64%) more than non-viewers (32%). Weekly internet users still typically turn to the radio (62%) as a main source of news and information more frequently than the internet (10%).
Likewise, weekly newspaper readers turn to radio (68%) as a main source more often than newspapers (7%).
Regardless of media access, radio broadcasts are thought to help reduce conflict and provide vital safety information. Far more respondents say radio broadcasts can help reduce conflict (67%) than those who say it can increase conflict (5%). As it is possible that such information is received secondhand, these questions were posed to all respondents, regardless of whether they previously stated they were able to access a radio.
Information heard on the radio trickles down to reach beyond listeners. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents say information from the radio has helped them to stay safe, regardless of whether they have regular access to a radio.
Source: US Agency for International Development