French Radio Expands Bilingual Service Programming to 14 Hours

Radio France Internationale (RFI) on Thursday launched its inaugural 14-hour bilingual radio program, broadcast from its new Phnom Penh office, to meet the growing demand for independent news in Cambodia, RFI executives said.

“Until recently, we broadcast only one hour per day, from our Cambodian newsroom in France. This one hour in Khmer was greatly successful and there was a demand for more, so we decided to extend to 14 hours to reach a bigger audience,” Marie-Christine Saragosse, chief executive officer of RFI, said Thursday on the 21st floor of Canadia Tower, where the offices for 16 new staff are located.

The new programs include special features, news bulletins, interviews with Cambodian politicians and businessman and insights into the Cambodian diaspora worldwide in Khmer, Ms. Saragosse said, adding that some programs will be bilingual or French only.

“The programming and scheduling is still done from Paris, and everything is led by the Paris bureau, but our Cambodian staff here produces most of the 14 hours,” she said.

About 85 percent of the 200,000 weekly listeners who tuned in to RFI’s one-hour Khmer program in 2012 were in Cambodia, while the rest were mainly Cambodians in residing in the U.S., Australia or Canada.

“I think [the audience] will get bigger,” with the launch of the new pro­gram, Ms. Saragosse said.

That the 14-hour service was launched about a month before the national election was a coincidence, she said, although RFI hoped to im­prove the professional standards of radio broadcasting and enhance in­dependent media as well as access to information in Cambodia.

“Something is moving here, things are changing…I think there will be a big explosion [in news] because the country is growing,” Ms. Saragosse said.

The French Embassy on Thursday welcomed the extension of RFI’s services, saying that it will benefit citizens, especially ahead of the election.

“The range of programs and resources provided by the new RFI offer…will meet the increasing demand of the Cambodian public for more information and news on current issues in Cambodia and in the rest of the world,” Nicolas Baudouin, the embassy’s first secretary, said.

RFI is available on FM radio in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kompong Cham, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap cities as well as online and via a mobile app.

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