ARN was originally called African International Radio. Its aim is to bring news, music, and entertainment programs from around the world to Africans via community radio stations spread across the continent. It has now diversified into integrated media activities which include television production and development; internet portal development; mobile phone content provision; print publishing (newspaper); e-commerce; FM & digital terrestrial TV playout. It also designs applications for handheld devices including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad using its proprietary technology platform.
The company was started in 1998 by media personality Arthur level and two other Cameroonian businessmen, with a small office in London. The idea for the station came from conversations between friends over drinks who had attended university together in Paris. In Africa, there were various radio stations playing on different coastal areas of the continent. At that time it was very difficult to transmit content beyond borders because all broadcasts had to go through a centralized broadcasting hub that could only rebroadcast content originating from within its jurisdiction. This meant that if you wanted your own music or news story aired anywhere else then it would have to be censored (or modified) because of policies set by the central institutions managing to broadcast. Initiatives such as WorldSpace and RAS made it possible to send a signal from one point on the planet to another, but they are expensive and usually only available for governments.
Arthur Level had recently managed a radio station in Paris called Radio France Internationale (RFI) which was funded by French taxpayers. This enabled him to acquire knowledge of how to operate a radio station as well as radio networks. He started with African International Radio, operating in English across Africa and around the world. The name changed because there were already two other stations at that time called “The International” and “International Radio”.
ARN’s first office was located in London’s West End with a small studio where staff members broadcast from two days per week only! This lasted until the year 2000 when the company hired a larger office with two studios. This was ARN’s first step into radio networking, it also started FM broadcasting on 95.8mHz in London and offered an expansion of services which now included programs in French, Portuguese, Swahili, and Hausa (Soomaaliya).
In 2003 Arthur Level decided to start a subsidiary called “African Radio Network Digital” (ARN-D) which brought together experts from various fields who had developed systems that could offer new opportunities to explore the way African media operates. ARN – D set out to develop its own technologies for delivering audio programming across multiple platforms available at low cost or free of charge. The group grew bigger as more experts joined the project and it was decided that ARN – D should be responsible for developing applications to run on two digital platforms: i.MX series processors from Freescale are used in various consumer electronics but also in high-end car sound systems as well as MP3 players, and the mobile phone platform Android OS (operating system).