Let the people speak! Days of hope and optimism
Tracey Naughton started off the session on community media at the Highway Africa conference with an old recording of the African National Congress’s underground radio station. As the speakers crackled with an Mkhonto weSizwe song, delegates sat in silence.
Tracey Naughton started off the session on community media at the Highway Africa conference with an old recording of the ANC’s radio station. As the speakers crackled with an Mkhonto we Sizwe song, delegates sat in silence.
Naughton went on to describe the early days of editing audio, recalling a workshop at bush radio – where interviews were taped, and the text written out on masking tape stuck to the wall. Marks were made where editing was needed, and then, editors used tape-to-tape recording to edit the piece. She said “we also talked about apartheid and what it did to people”.
Naughton also related the start of women’s radio in rural South Africa, recalling the actions of a group of rural women from the National Rural Women’s Movement. These women had a meeting with the chiefs of their village about starting a radio station – the chiefs said: “if women are in front of it, it will fall down”. The women did some research, and got some training and returned to the chiefs, stating their intention to start the commuity radio station. They told the chiefs “if the men start it, everyone will fall into the beer”!
The growth of the community radio sector in South Africa has been huge – in 1993 the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) had 12 to 20 media projects, and today, there are 82 community radio stations on air.
Lumko Mtimde from the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) went on to describe the early challenges the Forum faced – and the regulatory framework changes to the sector over the years. In 1994 the public broadcaster was selling off its transmitter equipment for almost nothing, the NCRF was ready to jump at the opportunity to buy the transmitters. But this was 1994, and the SABC sold it’s equipment to ‘white/right’ stations only for next to nothing.
The session was a great summary of beginnings of the community radio sector in South Africa. Tracey Naughton and Lumka Mtimde mentioned that they are writing a book on the history of community radio – ill be looking forward to it!
The session moved on to look at the potential for community radio internet streaming – the NCRF is intending to initate this kind of project soon – with community radio stations in areas that support ADSL access, streaming from one website.