"Most community radios were already under-resourced before the pandemic," says SACRF director Phankha Sakoane, who has worked within the community media for more than 20 years. He adds, "This is unfortunate as community radio is such an essential part of South African culture and society."

According to the foundation, there are some 200 community radio stations in South Africa that operate under a license from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, with a combined listenership of over 14 million.

SACRF has estimated that there are more than 5 000 volunteers within the sector as most radio stations can't afford to compensate some of the members of the team that drive the generation of content to suit the needs of the community.

Many of the people within the sector go on to provide world-class entertainment at commercial radio stations having learned the necessary skills to produce and present shows at community level.

"As such, we urge the government to provide much-needed support to community radio stations. [This is] not just through funding but also by including community media as a strategic partner in addressing socio-economic issues that continue to affect the country including issues around gender-based violence, unemployment, entrepreneurship and cultural diversity," adds Sakoane.

According to the foundation, community radio stations tend to cost significantly less than their commercial counterparts, despite their ability to create community-specific campaigns aimed at effecting positive behavioural changes.

"The SACRF's role is to represent and support community radios across the country, enabling them to become more sustainable, more profitable and ultimately to play an even bigger role in building the communities they serve," says Sakoane.

"A large part of this is engaging with government to ensure that radio stations do not close down as a result of the pandemic and instead are given access to resources that will lessen the burden of unemployment and skills shortages on the government," Sakoane concludes.

For more information, visit www.sacrf.co.za.