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 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 NCRF 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


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 – I'll 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.

National Community Radio Forum (NCRF)

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