Govt biggest supporter of community radio

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pretoria - Government remains the biggest advertiser and supporter of community radio, says Deputy Communication Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Speaking at the official handing over and unveiling of Musina Community Radio station in the border town on Friday, Ndabeni-Abrahams said government was cognisant of the role radio played as a medium of information, education and entertainment for communities. 

“Government remains the biggest advertiser and supporter of community radio.  However, we still believe the private sector can match government in the use of community radio stations for their adverts because such adverts can be announced in the local languages,” she said.

Musina Community Radio is one of the 85 community radio stations throughout the country supported by the Department of Communications through its Community Radio Support Programme.

This, according to the deputy minister, includes broadcast infrastructure, capacity building, content production and signal distribution.

She said 20 of the stations are in Limpopo. Three of these are located in the Vhembe District Municipality, namely Musina, Makhado and Thoho-Ya-Ndou. 

“We are a developing country with over 70 percent of the population widely spread in the rural areas.

“This makes radio a critical vehicle to communicate government and other information, as well as important educational information in our local languages,” she said.

Over 150 radio stations exist in South Africa, representing public, community and commercial broadcasting services. 

According to Nielsen Research, collectively, radio reaches 86 percent of the South African population weekly. 

Although the figure is relatively low compared to other developing countries such as Malaysia (93 percent), Singapore and India, South Africa’s reach is still higher than China, which is at 55.6 percent.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said it was on this basis that a huge investment has been made to community radio sector since 1994.

The department recently approved a new signal distribution subsidy scheme through the public signal distributor, Sentech.  

“This new subsidy will see signal distribution costs for community radio located in rural and nodal areas being covered in full by the department for the next four years, whilst urban based stations’ costs, will only be covered up to 70 percent,” she said.

The deputy minister said government has implemented a simple licensing regime to fast-track the issuance of licences to communities. 

Furthermore, community radio stations are exempted from licence application fees.

“South Africa’s support for community radio is the biggest in the world, outperforming even first world economies,” she said. -