Broadcasting in South Africa has evolved over the past 20 years and has taken up policies and regulatory committees that aim at using the media to be the driving force behind democracy. In this essay, what will be discussed in length is the way in which South Africa’s broadcasting has changed over the years in radio broadcasting. The three tiers are going to be of importance and thus will be discussed densely.
The Three tiers of South African Broadcasting
Before 1994, there were three tiers of radio that existed, namely: commercial which was external to South African boarders, public which did not really exist as the SABC was and is still a state owned broadcaster. Community radio which had some stations that were broadcasting illegally and others were awarded licenses by Home Affairs (South African Broadcasting Landscape lecture slides). The IBA is a product of ‘civil society-led campaigns’ in the early 1990s which were concerned with the independence of broadcast. In 1992 at the Conference for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) the independent regulatory of broadcast media and telecommunication was agreed upon (Barnett; 1999: 650).
This meant change in the function of the three tier radios that existed. Commercial radio was aimed at attracting advertising to audiences, e.g. Metro Fm, 5FM etc. The challenge for the IBA was a matter of how they were going to use commercial radio broadcasting to incorporate black empowerment. How much privatisation were they willing to give to foreign investors at the expense of local citizens (Barnett; 1999: 657)?
Public radio was aimed at building democracy and serving the interests of the nation, e.g. SAFM which is under the SABC. This means that the SABC has to provide programming that will deal with all issues that affect the nation at large. Current Affairs shows that will celebrate the democracy that the country was trying to implement. This means that all the 11 official languages and all the different cultures that exist in the country should be catered for in programming.
Community radio was also aimed at building democracy but its emphasis on building strong relationships in particular communities Community radio also emphasises the participation of the community in the production of the content. Community radio licenses are given to radio stations that are: in geographical areas, campus based, religious groups and those targeting cultural & ethnic communities. (Olorunnisola; 2002: 131-132). By the end of 1999, there were about 65 licensed community radio stations in South Africa. Now the country has one of the most vibrant community radio stations in the whole continent (Olorunnisola; 2002: 126).
The Institutional context and frameworks of Production
In the three tiers that exist in radio broadcasting, the production of news is primarily what governs the way in which news and the institutional context is carried out. This means that the production of news in all three tiers differs based on the purpose they serve and as a matter of carrying out its objective.
When the IBA started issuing licences for radio broadcasting in 1994, community radio was a top priority. In issuing community radio licences, the IBA had four distinctive types of licenses they were issuing. Namely: stations that were serving in geographical areas, campus-based stations that would cater to student, different religious groups and radio stations that targeted cultural and ethnic communities (Olorunnisola; 2002: 131-132).
Bush Radio was issued with a geographical license as it aimed at catering for the community in the Cape Flats in Cape Town. Prerequisites of community radio stations are that they have to get the community involves in all their broadcasting. The community should be able to participate and get involved in issues that are addressed in the shows. In other words, the shows have to be participatory communication (Olorunnisola; 2002: 132). Thus programming at Bush Radio has been divided areas which deal with upliftment projects in the community for all members of the community. From infants to adults, they have scholarships and training programmes for the youth where they educate them. They also deal with human potential development where they teach the community how to evaluate and critic issues in and around them. Bush Radio also embrace shows that aim at enhancing local musicians in the area and also drama projects that exist in and around the area. Shows look at the challenges of all the people in the area, and create a discussion with the community through participation communication (www.bushradio.co.za).
The SABC in 1996 took an economic decision to sell its radio stations which led to the first privatisation of radio broadcast in the country. High bidders such as Primedia and Newshelf 71 were amongst the many broadcasting companies that bought SABC radio stations. In so doing, radio became an entertainment and money making business. Thus the content of commercial radio stations being driven by advertising (Barnett; 2001: 657).
Privatization meant that the stations were to take on new policies that were to govern their broadcasting. The identity of 702 is based on the idea of having talk shows where listeners are expected to call in and develop a conversation with the presenters. They aim at challenging educated people in their mid 20s to early 40s. They include men and women from all races and look into a variety of shows that will cater for their target audience. The reason behind the ages of the target audiences could also be linked to advertising and who advertisers are targeting. Therefore, if 60 year olds were the target audience, this would do the advertisers no good as their products would not serve its purpose as it would be listened to by the wrong age group. Their content is primarily driven by advertisers because of the dependence of the advertising revenues for the existence of the station. Therefore, programming aims at attracting listeners who will appeal to advertisers which will mean more people knowing more about that which is advertised (www.702.co.za).
1. Barnett, C.1999. The limits of media democratization in South
Africa: politics, privatization and regulation. Media, Culture & Society. SAGE Publications. London. Vol. 21: 649-671
2. Olorunnisola, A. 2002. Community Radio: Participatory Communication in
Postapartheid South Africa. Journal of Radio Studies. Vol. 9, No. 1.