How you leave #BushRadio after an interview


Western Cape Cadets were at Bush Radio for an interview and they did this for us after.

Radio is thriving in South Africa: 80% are tuning in

Cecilie Arcurs/Getty Images

Tanja Bosch, University of Cape Town

Almost three decades into democracy, radio is thriving in South Africa. Radio listenership in the country is consistently higher than the global average. And it in fact increased during the COVID-19 lockdowns of the past two years.

This is perhaps not surprising given that radio acts as a companion and that people were confined to their homes and so more likely to tune in, more often. But during the pandemic, radio has also played an important role in bringing educational broadcasts to youth who did not have access to the internet. People also listened to radio station podcasts during lockdown, and podcast listenership in South Africa is also higher than the global average.

Despite South Africa’s divisive history, I have argued that this is because radio listening provides background texture to everyday life. It’s a social activity which reminds people that there is a social world “out there” and helps them link to it.

The numbers

Radio is a universal mass medium in South Africa, since more people have access to radio receivers and broadcasts than they do television sets. In fact, radio remains the most popular and pervasive medium across the continent. This is despite the proliferation of cellphones, the growth of social media apps and on-demand streaming music services.

One might assume that fewer people would listen to the radio given these technological innovations. But the most recent measurement figures show that radio audiences in South Africa continue to grow.

In 2021, about 80% of South Africans had tuned into a radio station within the last week, with most people still listening on traditional radio sets. There are 40 commercial and public broadcast stations and 284 community stations in South Africa.

Radio audience numbers in South Africa have not declined as they have in North America, due to an increase in streaming service options. There is, in particular, high listenership among young people, who listen to radio as a source of both news and companionship.

Vernacular radio

World Radio Day is a good time to reflect on the role of the medium in a country like South Africa, characterised by inequality and a ethnically divisive history under apartheid.

Historically, South African broadcasting has not provided a common space of public communication, but instead reinforced notions of separateness, in line with apartheid narratives of difference. As I argued in my book Broadcasting Democracy, people “consume” radio, making strategic choices about which stations to tune into on the basis of their personal or group identities.

Commercial music radio stations in particular are still often seen and sometimes even explicitly framed along racial lines. There is a plethora of radio stations in all 11 official languages available at the public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

South African scholar Liz Gunner has shown how a station like the Zulu language Ukhozi FM has been significant in connecting with urban and rural listeners to navigate post-apartheid Zulu identity. Ukhozi FM has the highest radio listenership with nearly 8-million listeners. While during apartheid language and ethnic differences were used as a means to segregate citizens, today these are celebrated as part of a diverse “rainbow nation”.

The public sphere

Despite the continued popularity of vernacular radio, English-language talk radio stations and shows still attract African language speakers who frequently phone in and participate. This could be linked to the dominance of English-language media in South Africa and the fact that English media spaces are also often dominant.

In other words, despite the range of vernacular options, English stations are perceived as being sites of the public sphere and attract debate and conversation between a diverse range of South Africans.

A young man in bright blue shirt sits in a high tech radio studio.
YFM DJ Kutloano Nhlapo, 2017, Johannesburg. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Regardless of language, talk radio shows are booming with vibrant conversations, highlighting the important role of radio as a space to bring together geographically diverse South Africans to debate matters of social and political importance.

Aside from identity, radio also plays a key role as a companion for people, as in this study where the majority of youth said that radio “keeps me company”. Another recent study confirmed that listeners often see their preferred radio station as a companion and feel a deep connection with both the station and its DJs.

Social media

While traditional listenership is growing in South Africa, people are also listening more online and interacting with radio stations in different ways, for example via social media platforms.

Whereas in the past listeners could only access radio hosts via calling in to the station, they can now easily and instantly reach them via apps like Twitter. And equally instantly receive responses. While calling in to a station usually implies negotiating one’s way past a call screener or producer and engaging on a specific topic, Twitter communication is often more casual, relaxed and personal.

Radio is thus no longer a one-dimensional platform or “blind medium”, and this is a key contributing factor to its growth. And radio listeners are able to now communicate directly not only with the station, but also one another.

Community radio

And with 284 stations, the role of community radio in South Africa also remains key to continuing to build and consolidate democracy. Originally designed as the “voice of the voiceless”, community radio emerged as part of the liberalisation of the airwaves in the early 1990s. They were a key strategy in the repositioning of the apartheid-state media landscape.

Like many other organisations in the NGO sector, community stations have faced financial challenges after the withdrawal of international donor funds which sustained them during the apartheid period. But they are still flourishing, as evidenced by the large number of stations still in existence.

Stations like Bush Radio, the oldest community radio project in Cape Town, still boast an exciting lineup of alternative talk and music content. And smaller community projects like Rx Radio, a children’s radio project based at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, also play a key role in providing children’s entertainment produced by children themselves.

Radio plays a significant role in South Africa as form of education and entertainment. The diverse and vibrant range of stations is a unique feature of the South African media landscape.

Tanja Bosch, Associate Professor in Media Studies and Production, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

SONA2022 in pictures and video


From the protests, to fashion the Bush Radio news team brought us coverage from inside and outside the State of the Nation address. 2022 saw the first SONA outside of the Parliamentary precinct which was severely damaged in an alleged arson attack in January.

The Rainbow Table – other but together


Bush Radio with the support of The Other Foundation has been working with a number of organisations in developing a radio programme addressing violence towards the LGBTIQA+ community.

Part of the training will see the following people host and produce a radio programme for the first time with an introductory radio piece called “The Rainbow Table”.

Backchat on Bush Radio 89.5FM from 2pm till 3pm on Friday, 28 January 2022

Bush Radio was the first radio station in Africa to have a dedicated gay and lesbian focus radio programme called “In the Pink” which started in 1995 and was followed by “The Salon”.

Read more:

Power of pink radio

Coming out of the closet and into the pink

The Salon is a sexy, sincere and playful

Former BushRadio intern on 60Minutes

Micah (left) and Mkhuseli on Robben Island in 2015 when Bush Radio conducted radio workshops as part of the museum’s summer school

One of Bush Radio’s former interns Micah Loewinger – was featured in a 60 Minutes special for his reporting.

Micah interned at Bush Radio in 2015.

The New York Times described 60 minutes as the “one of the most esteemed news magazines on American television”.

More about Bush Radio’s Foreign Internship Programme.

Our wish for 2022 (VIDEO)


We have lost loved ones, struggled financially, and the impact of Covid19 weighs heavy on all of us.

But we are resilient…

What does Desmond Tutu mean to the people of #CapeTown (video)


Related: If our youth is destroyed there will be no nation – Desmond Mpilo Tutu (7 October 1931 – 26 December 2021)

If our youth is destroyed there will be no nation – Desmond Mpilo Tutu (7 October 1931 – 26 December 2021)

Listen to the chat

One of Bush Radio programmes called Children Radio Education Workshop, The (CREW) had a chance to speak to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu. Talking about when he was first diagnosed with cancer to how he became the Archbishop, the Nobel Prize and the issues that are faced by young people the chat was facilitated by the late Zane Ibrahim.

Archbishop Tutu, we salute you.

Together we can dream and do! #Imagine


People ask, why does Bush Radio play that song written by John Lennon* and Yoko Ono called Imagine every day?

The answer is pretty simple.

Each day we want you to imagine a better world.

A world of peace, in our homes, in our communities and in our country.

Each day we want you to imagine a world of equality, where no- one is discriminated against because of their religion, gender, age, sexual orientation or beliefs.

A world where we build up each other and not destroy.

A world of hope.

But also a world where each of us help and build towards making this a reality.

To paraphrase the song:

You may say we’re a dreamers

But we’re not the only ones

We hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one”

*The 8th December is the anniversary the day John Lennon was killed.

End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics #WorldAIDSDay

World Aids Day 2021

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