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SA: community radio takes on gender and World Cup 2

The world’s media eyes will soon squarely focus on South Africa, with millions from across the globe tuning in via multimillion-dollar broadcasts. Yet, as Deborah Walter points out, even as the international media and big broadcasters move in, and journalists descend from all over the world, in South Africa, like much of Africa, community radio is still a key source of information and news for many communities, linking local activities and issues with international perspectives.

While other news media, especially print, struggle to keep audiences, community radio listenership in South Africa is continuously rising. According to the South African Advertising Research Foundation, community radio is improving its weekly reach, rising from 7.340-million listeners to 7.713-million between February and May this year alone.

One of the contributing factors cited is the increasing listenership among youth and women. Perhaps it is because, although we live in an increasingly globalised world, audiences still crave community issues and information relevant to their everyday lives.

Community radio is often more likely than mainstream media to include voices form community-based sources, and women sources. For example, monitoring of community media by Gender Links during the April 2009 elections showed that women constituted 34% of news sources, compared to 20% in monitoring of the mainstream media conducted by Media Monitoring Africa over the same period

In celebration of World Press Freedom Day. Gender Links, South Africa’s National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) and the Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET) conducted a debate to tackle the convergence of these issues – community media, gender, and the upcoming World Cup 2010.

According to NCRF director Frankilin Huizies, while community stations may not have the much sought after and very expensive broadcast rights, there’s many creative ways to make sure local listeners get in on the World Cup action. “How can we take advantage of the World Cup?” Huizies challenged the audience comprising mostly of community broadcasters.

“Stations can do live broadcasts form unofficial fan parks, cover other activities around the tournament, and even teach their communities to speak the greetings of the incoming visitors,” suggested Huizies.

Brenda Leonard of Bush Radio echoed these thoughts, explaining that Bush’s strong commitment to gender equality and ensuring the participation of women means they often get the interesting stories that everyone else misses. For example, an all woman work force was responsible for installing the stadium’s beautiful and complex glass ceiling, a story that Bush sought out to cover.

Human trafficking and possible dangers to children during the event has been a serious source of concern for the government and parents. Even before the advent of the Cup. Bush has a strategy in place to deal with such emergencies. “We have a policy that if anyone goes missing, at any time, any programme is immediately stopped and that information goes out on air,” explained Leanord. “The first four hours are the most crucial, so the information is urgent.”

According to Leonard, community radio’s job is also to tackle the big issues, what’s gone wrong. She explained that one of the stories Bush has followed closely is the displacement of informal traders, often resulting from strict FIFA by-laws about where business can take place in and around stadiums. “All the traders are gone,” she said. “We need to talk about where they are now.”

Continue reading on Pambazuka News

By Deborah WalterPambazuka News

Deborah Walter is the Editor of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service and Director of CMFD Productions. This article is part of the GL Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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