[by Abongile Zizi]
Community radio in South Africa is enjoying a strong foothold on audiences that is growing daily. SAARF RAMS released in August 2012 show that community radio listenership sits at 8720’000 listeners. Around the same time last year, total community radio listenership sat at 84466’000. These numbers indicated a slight growth from 24.8% to 25.0%. A single percentile might not seem like a drastic jump but the steady and consistent climb of this type of radio is very telling of the impact community radio is starting to have on audiences. The consistent growth of community radio is due to a myriad of factors that intrinsic to its very nature. The existence of agencies like the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) which give financial and structural support to community based media organisations has created a fertile environment for community radio to flourish. Earlier this year, the oldest community radio station in South Africa, Bush Radio experienced severe financial difficulties; this is not a unique situation. Many community radio stations experience financial difficulties because they are funded through grants, sponsorships and the little advertising revenue they generate.
Community radio is for the community, by the community. In this instance community is a broad term as it refers to both geographical communities and communities of interest. Catering to a niche market is part of the reason why there’s a growing listenership base for community radio. Within communities localised media serves to create a common ground for the group to explore their shared concerns in depth and on their own terms be it through language, religion or shared geography. Within geographical communities, community radio further extends the already intimate relationship that radio stations share with their listeners as it speaks directly to their needs in a language they can understand.
While PBS and Commercial radio cater to a multitude of interests that are relevant to their target market, the ground level approach and localised content provided by community radio has a stronger appeal to audiences because of the localisation of the content. The foothold that Commercial and PBS stations had on audiences has been shaken by community radio because these stations compete with them for audiences and enjoy somewhat of an advantage.
Currently, there are over a hundred community radio stations in South Africa, these stations cater to multiple communities with multiple needs. In community radio not only is content aligned with national interest, content approach is focused on localised impact. Isolated communities have found a voice though community radio. Most community radio stations are made up of volunteers from the community who can be seen as a representation of the community within which these stations function. They also nurture raw talent by affording interested community members an environment to learn and grow as radio presenters, producers, reporters and newsreaders. Radio personalities like Metro FM’s DJ Sbu and 702 Talk Radio’s Niall Collie started off at community radio level. Community radio not only trains and produces media practitioners who can rival those of PBS and commercial stations, it gives communities a voice.
Sources: MDDA, SAARF
Picture taken from: www.Bushradio.wordpress.com