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Radio Signal FM

The History of Radio Broadcasting in Haiti

Haiti Radio Stations

Radios are a major part of Haitian Culture. Almost everyone, children, youth, women and men in Haiti listen to radio. Statistics show that over 97 percent of the country's population own a radio set and at least three hundred radio broadcasting stations are operational.

According to Paolo Woods, a renowned photographer, the radio "is always on" in Haiti. It is playing everywhere; in the shops and restaurants. "It is like background sound".

Every influential person in Haiti in need of audience gets space. Catholic nuns and voodoo priests get their share to broadcast religious material.

The history of radios in Haiti is a funny one. Radios arrived in the 1930s and would only tune to one and only one channel. US missionaries donated the very first receivers to the Haitians hoping that they would be faithful listeners of Radio Lumiere.

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The power of Radio in the Haitian Society

Haitian radio is the chief means of media communication on the island. Few have income to buy a TV, and those who have sets are subject to unreliable electricity service. Going online to access news coverage is impossible for all but the rich. Not only is newspaper distribution minimal, but 80% of the population are illiterate. The only information source available to everyone is the radio and radio stations are plentiful in Haiti. Reception is widely accessible in virtually every village on the island. Radios cost little to own and run on batteries.

Radio is vital for election coverage. Talk-radio's discussion formats are invaluable sources of information. They help keep citizens informed, and competition for air time is fierce among electoral candidates. In desperation, they carry out attacks of violence against stations and their hosts to stop negative coverage. Between 2000 and 2011, five violent acts occurred, in which radio facilities were disabled or destroyed, and radio commentators injured or killed.

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Radio Signal FM and Mario Viau

After the earthquake struck on January 12, 2010 the country's telecommunications infrastructure, including television, phones and the radio all suffered severely. The frightened populace, left stranded from news across Haiti by the destruction the disaster wrought on technology, were given hope as one radio station, miraculously, relatively unscathed, stood to tell the tale.

Port-au-Prince's Signal FM started off its twentieth year as the only radio station still able to broadcast. Not only was the infrastructure intact, but the 50 person staff, all but three of whom were on-site, had been unhurt, and suddenly theirs was the only means of communication for people across Haiti and the concerned around the world.

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