Posts Tagged ‘community media’

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.

Celebrating World Radio Day #CapeTown to #NewYork #BushRadio #WHRU

Video clip of Bush Radio streaming live in New York
Listen to the Bush Radio / WRHU broadcast

The broadcast consisted of a “Taste of Cape Town with Wayne McKay, Lerato Mashile and Mitchum George followed by the WRHU team interviewing a Bush Radio panel consisting of:

From the Cape Flats to NY #WorldRadioDay #NewWorldNewRadio #WRD2021 #radio #BushRadio #WRHU


This year in the lead up to World Radio Day, Bush Radio was invited to participate in a broadcast with WRHU Radio Hofstra University 88.7 FM in the United States as part of their global celebration.

Join us this Friday, 12 February at 3pm as we take the Cape Flats to New York and beyond.

Wayne McKay, Lerato Mashile and Mitchum George will host a “Taste of Cape Town” and this will be followed by the WRHU team interviewing Bush Radio Alumni and discussing the power of community media, its role in Africa, challenges, innovative radio programming, training and the impact of the station in Africa and globally.

The panel to be interviewed will consist of:

*Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day (WRD). This year WRD is divided into three subthemes:

  • Evolution – The world changes, radio evolves.
  • Innovation – The world changes, radio adapts and innovate.
  • Connection – The world changes, radio connects.


Basic protective measures against the Novel #Coronavirus – click here

Official websites for accurate information regarding COVID19:

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

Regulations and Guidelines – Coronavirus Covid-19

World Health Organisation

Western Cape Government Health Department

Bush Radio MD Brenda Leonard Makes MDDA Board Interview Shortlist

Bush Radio’s Brenda Leonard

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications has announced that Bush Radio’s Managing Director Brenda Leonard is one of the candidates shortlisted to fill one of four vacancies on the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Board.

The addition of Leonard to the shortlist is a move in the right direction for the MDDA’s search for Board members, according to Bush Radio Programme Integrator Adrian Louw.

“Leonard’s standing within the community media sector, due to her commitment and level of integrity, as well as the wide range of skills she possesses, will be an asset to the MDDA. She has led Bush Radio through very trying times – and continues to do so – and the skills she’s gathered over 27 years of community radio involvement will provide the MDDA with much-needed direction on a strategic level.”

She spearheads Bush Radio’s drive to ensure more support for the community media sector.

Leonard is the Western Cape’s provincial secretary of the National Community Radio Forum, volunteer bookkeeper at the Mitchells Plain Advice and Development Project, and is on the journalism advisory committee for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and a founding delegate of the United Nations Global Alliance on Media and Gender.


Community Media demands to be heard

Ministers indifferent to the plight of the community radio sector

UPDATE: Community Radio Under Attack From Sentech Demands

The end of revolutionary radio in South Africa?

Basic protective measures against the Novel #Coronavirus – click here

Official websites for accurate information regarding COVID19:

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

Regulations and Guidelines – Coronavirus Covid-19

World Health Organisation

Western Cape Government Health Department

Break the silence, show love


May 17, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Help to break the silence, speak out for those unable to and above all show each other love.

Related: Read about the first gay radio programme ever in South Africa – Bush Radio’s In the Pink

Basic protective measures against the Novel #Coronavirus – click here

Official websites for accurate information regarding COVID19:

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

Regulations and Guidelines – Coronavirus Covid-19

World Health Organisation

Western Cape Government Health Department

Important information on the use of masks #covid19 #coronavirus (WATCH)


Basic protective measures against the Novel #Coronavirus – click here

Official websites for accurate information:

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

Regulations and Guidelines – Coronavirus Covid-19

World Health Organisation

Western Cape Government Health Department

Ministers indifferent to the plight of the community radio sector


The National Community Radio Forum issued a press statement after their meeting with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) yesterday.

The meeting was held to discuss the current crises with regards to the planned closure of certain community radio stations by the broadcasting authority.

READ NCRF STATEMENT 7 November 2019 – Ministers indifferent to the plight of the #communityradio sector

Again Bush Radio is very concerned about these developments and we believe that a closure of one station is worrying. We call upon all parties involved to look for an amicable solution for the continued survival and growth of the community radio sector.

We also encourage communities, individuals, organisations and businesses to support their community radio stations.


Community Media demands to be heard

Keep your voice alive

Don’t just like what you hear.

The end of revolutionary radio in South Africa?

Positions available (Sales)


Bush Radio is recruiting energetic, creative and target-driven sales representatives to work in the Sales Department of the station.


  • Computer literacy compulsory (including excel, PowerPoint and word)
  • A Matric certificate
  • A passion for community media
  • Sound oral and written communication skills
  • Proven sales track record
  • Own transport

A basic salary with a competitive commission on sales will be paid.

Closing date for application is Thursday, 7 November 2019 at 17h00.

No late applications will be considered.

Interviews will take place the week of 11 November 2019, and successful applicants will start ASAP.

Download, complete and email your application form to

Applications should be clearly marked SALES REP JOB APPLICATION.

No telephonic enquiries will be accepted.

Applicants not contacted within two weeks after the closing date should consider their applications unsuccessful.

Bush Radio reserves the right not to make an appointment.

Don’t just like what you hear.


Have you received airtime on Bush Radio?

Have you received training at the station?

Have we promoted your song, organisation, issue or start-up?

Please consider making a contribution to the continued running of Africa’s oldest, volunteer driven, not-for-profit community radio station.

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Spread the word so that we can keep doing what we do by being of service.

For more information visit:

Or visit to listen online and find links to our social media pages.

Find out more about the work of Bush Radio and the struggles of community media visit these articles:

Mail and Guardian

Community Media demands to be heard


This morning during a scheduled engagement with the Community Media sector and the new Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu before his budget vote to Parliament, members of the sector handed a memorandum to the minister to highlight the current plight of community media.

The Minister felt that he was ambushed by the sector as he was under the impression that it was a simple “meet and greet”.

Below is the memorandum as it was issued.


Community radio, print and TV sectors

Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, the country has made impressive gains in the promotion of media diversity through support for emerging, small commercial newspapers and community broadcasting services serving the majority of the people who were previously excluded. 

In the early 90’s media activists, many of whom are in this room today, fought for the establishment of the Media Development and Diversity Agency, tasked with the supporting community and independent media in South Africa. Since then the regulator has license over 200 community radio reaching an estimated audience of 8 million and 6 community TV stations reaching an estimated, collective audience of 14 million.

Community Newspapers by Independent publishers print in excess of 6 million copies per month with a readership that exceeds 20 million South Africans in all 11 official languages. Collectively the sector employs tens of thousands of previously disadvantaged individuals countrywide.

Unfortunately, in the last decade or so, these impressive gains have been rolled back as stations have struggled for survival in the face of weakened institutions (MDDA, GCIS and ICASA), state capture, government complacency and failed promises.

Year after year the sector attends “engagements” with the DoC, GCIS and the MDDA. Every year we regurgitate the same challenges and propose the same solutions. Every year the government and its agencies promise to address the issues and then nothing is done.

This year is different. The community media sector is on the verge of collapse with an estimated collective debt sitting at around R180 million. This is made up largely of debts to SAMRO & CARPASSO, SENTECH, SARS and rental. As we speak stations are being served eviction notices from their premises, retrenching staff and getting deeper into debt.

It makes no difference whether the MDDA and GCIS report to the DoC or to the Presidency, as long as something gets done.  The sector simply cannot be allowed to fail.

We call upon the Presidency to implement the following immediate measures:

• Provide emergency relief funding to pay off the collective debt to SARS, SENTECH, SAMRO & CARPASSO (paid to stations or directly to debtors – to avoid CSD challenges) – R150 million for radio, R15 million for TV and R15 million for print.

• Increase MDDA budget to allow for annual grant for all community broadcasters and increased support for print publishers.

• Build MDDA capacity at board and operational level to speed up grant approval and disbursement.

• Implement the Parliamentary Portfolio Directive (Nov, 2011) to spend 30 % of government adspend on community media.

Additional measures to improve the sustainability of the sector are outlined in the full memorandum

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