Did you know that there are currently more than 200 community radio stations, just in South Africa?

South Africa comprises many different people with varying tastes and interests, and so it comes as no surprise that stations have geared up to meet varying needs. Surfing the radio waves will guarantee something for everyone! From pop music in your mother tongue, to thought provoking discussions about your interests, radio is an all-inclusive form of media that can be reached by anyone within the broadcasting range.

So without further ado, turn your ears as we turn up the volume on community radio and how it makes content!

A brief history of community radio

Community radio in South Africa had its birth after the governing body Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) restructured the broadcast industry in 1993. This came about because of the need to establish independent radio throughout the country.

Thanks to this, three categories of radio are now widely available — namely public, commercial and community. So what’s the difference between them? Let’s take a look:
  • Public radio: These belong to the public broadcaster (SABC) and are aimed at the general public.
  • Commercial radio: These stations are run for profit, either being owned by investors or corporations.
  • Community radio: This is the smallest of all the broadcasters. It has one frequency and one sender.
What is more, being a station that serves a community can further be defined as either being geared towards a geographic location, or serving a group of people with similar interests.

Community radio’s purpose

Since this type of radio plays to the interest of its community, its purpose is to encourage community involvement and provide for its needs.

For a geographic community, this would mean offering topics about local events and news that is relevant to the town or city. This could be the opening of a new library or speaking to a local personality who has an opinion to share on a topic that will affect the community.

Another definition of community is ‘shared elements that bring listeners together’ such as religion, music, language and interests. Stations that are aimed at communities that are not limited to geographical borders can accommodate their audience by offering such things that will resonate with those respective listeners.

Each type of community radio has certain guidelines that they need to stick to, and every station needs to adhere to these guidelines. One such guideline is that these types of stations should be independent of government or private owners. This means that they should be non-profits that are run by the community, for the community.

Content for the community via radio

So if a radio exists to serve its community, what does that mean for the content it delivers?

Firstly, radio as a medium means that it needs to entertain, educate and inform its audience. In everything a local station broadcasts, it needs to uphold these principles.

Secondly, it has to provide content to listeners in a language that is mutually understandable by the majority of its target audience. This will depend on the individual demographics of the community it serves.

These types of radio stations have unique insights into the needs of their target audience because it’s members of the community that are running the station and producing content. This special awareness means that, when they create programmes and plan their content, they are able to:
  • provide locals with access to relevant information
  • fill the communications gap that exists between smaller groups or minorities and the limited access to basic information
  • design and operate a station that reflects the voice and information needs of its community, and
  • inform listeners about the socio-economic issues that affect them.

Each community-based radio station has a unique collection of content and programmes, but one thing is the same across the board — they are dedicated to bringing their audiences relevant content!

Do you listen to community radio? Let us know in the comments below.

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Now that you know about how a community radio station approaches content creation, be sure to learn more about why you should be Giving radio listeners what they want: A Q&A with JD Mostert.
*Image courtesy of Canva