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.