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Varsity Radio Networks Play a Key Role

Posted by radio On July - 9 - 2012

By Helen Phushela


Student radio stations have been negatively seen as mere juke boxes, but over the years they have proven to be big role players in community development. The myth is perpetuated by the belief that varsity networks are dominated by the loudest breakfast shows and information filled current affairs programs; a noisy background of shout-outs from students in campus dorms and those living in the area. The more optimistic perspective is that varsity radio networks, in fact, serve as the thread that connects students from all departments and courses. It is a community radio for the student community.

The concept of student radio or varsity radio network originates from the United States of America in the 1960s (Collage Radio Manual). It spread out to Canada, Europe then Africa.

In South Africa we have a variety of campus radio stations namely TUT FM, Tshwane FM formally known as TUT FM Top Stereo, VOW FM, VUT FM to name a few. The IBA Act of 1993 and the Broadcasting Act of 1999 defined community radio, as a non-profit making organ. Campus radio stations help students diagnose their problems and discuss them, also informing them on relevant issues about campus life. Campus radio caters for the community as well as students. Student community broadcasters have groomed a lot of great talent that we now hear on PBS radio stations and Commercial radio as well. Most of the vibrant voices broadcasting from campus studios will soon be heard around the country.

TUT FM has played a major role in the success of people such as Shonisani Muleya also known as Ashifa Shabba. Muleya, who was part of the SRC when the station was formulated in 1993, learned radio from scratch at TUTFM then known as TNTFM. “Yes TUT FM shaped me to be the person I am today. I had a dream of owning a radio station one day”, he says.

“My partners Given Mkhari, Simphiwe Mdlalose, Andile Khumalo and myself now own two commercial radio stations. Capricorn FM in Limpopo and Power FM in Gauteng. These partners have community radio background’, adds Muleya.

In as much as it has been argued that the content of most campus radio stations leans more towards being commercial, varsity radio network such as TUT FM caters for institutions and academics while accommodating the community of Soshanguve. Community Campus stations, are still facing past ghosts of funding are development. This cannot be combated if the stations are not taken as seriously as commercial stations.

In 2004 TUTFM formally became a community radio station; however, this does not mean they have stopped catering for students. Campus based radio stations such as UNISA FM (radio UNISA) still cater for students and cover student life issues only. TUT FM and TOP stereo which is now Tshwane FM now cater for the community as well.

“Students are not different from the general public in fact they form part of the general public so even if we were not a campus based station we would still cover the educational and campus life content. In a nutshell our content is driven by the typical lifestyle that exists in our community as per our research findings”, says Kedibone Mahapa, acting station manager at TUT FM.

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