Editorial Opinion: Why you should support Bush Radio

Pre-1994 South Africans had no free, independent and licensed community radio stations.

A small group in Cape Town, South Africa, pioneered the concept of community radio, be yourself radio, radio that represents the diverse, divided communities of Cape Town.

A radio station that speaks with, to, for and by the people of Cape Town.

From being the first community radio station project on the continent, affectionately known as "the mother of community radio in Africa", Bush Radio has always had at its core the training and development of new media talent but also fighting for and securing media freedom for all.

With its dynamic programming run entirely by a team of dedicated volunteers, it deals with a wide range of issues ranging from health through to social development, but also features developing artists, which means you could hear the latest in township gqom through to Mongolian throat singing, interspersed with indigenous Khoe instruments.

Bush Radio as an organisation is truly a microcosm of the potential of the people of South Africa and Cape Town, in particular.

A radio station which serves no political or religious masters, but rather the people. A station that doesn't strive to be popular but rather necessary in the lives of the communities it serves. The very same people who form part and are represented by the station.

Daily Maverick article on Bush Radio

Therein lies the challenge for the station... it is not easily sold, marketed, or promoted - it does not fit neatly in a box that can be packaged, wrapped and shipped off like just another commodity.

Bush Radio represents an ideal, it represents hope, it encourages the building of pride in the people of Cape Town. It encourages them, through its programming, projects and training, to be part of building a better Cape Town, a better South Africa, a better world.

But the past 30 years have not been easy, community radio has had to fight for its existence, forced to compete with large commercial radio stations, as well as the national public broadcaster, for an ever-decreasing advertising share. A few months ago, another blow when a major advertising agency in the community radio sector announced it is being liquidated while owing several community radio stations hundreds of thousands of rands. It really is a situation of "how long can the centre hold"?

And in particular, Bush Radio is struggling with paying exorbitant rent to its landlord, ever-increasing fees to Sentech for signal distribution fees, and SAMRO fees for its extensive promotion of local music (yes, even though community radio plays up to 80% local, we pay every song we play).

So the question is Quo Vadis?

There are many challenges in the community radio sector which bodies that Bush Radio helped to establish, like the National Association of Broadcasters (NABSA) and the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF), are tackling on a national level.

But, as ever, Bush Radio remains in service to the people, and battles daily to build democracy through active citizenship, social upliftment and be an independent voice and amplifier of the voice of the people.

As we celebrate 30 years of democracy and head into a national election year, it is important that community radio stations like Bush Radio are supported so that we can continue building the nation.

Visit www.bushradio.co.za

About the contributor:
Adrian Louw is the Programme Integrator for Africa's oldest community radio station, Bush Radio. Louw has been involved with the station on various levels since 1994, a graduate of Peninsula Technikon Journalism (now CPUT) and is a media trainer and media ethics fellow of the Salzburg Seminar. 

Read: 7 practical ways to assist Bush Radio

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