The following page contains two of my academic essays in which we critically assessed the radio practice in theory.
Contextualising the contemporary South African radio landscape, and analysing and comparing the news content produced by two of the following radio stations – SAfm (public service), 702 (commercial) and Bush Radio (community).
“ICASA was established in July 2000, as a merger of telecoms regulator (Telecommunications Regulators Association of Southern Africa) and the broadcasting regulator (Independent Broadcasting Authority)” (http://www.icasa.org.za). They wanted to ensure that people were held responsible accordingly in terms of equality and transparency (http://www.icasa.org.za). Before this the Independent Broadcasting Authority was in power and had come up with a three tier system to regulate publication of different media for different audiences.
The three tier system was formed in 1993 under the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), and was implemented in March 1994. The IBA had principles such as: “Promoting diversity, wider choice in the field of broadcasting through the setting of standards for the delivery of high quality service, ensuring that broadcasters operate in a level playing field where fair competition is the rule, and encouraging the development of a local programme production industry where listeners and viewers are placed at the centre of broadcasting projects” (http://www.gov.mu/portal/site/iba/menuitem). The commercial radio stations only broadcasted content which was not South African based. Public radio stations were funded by the state and therefore became a state-broadcaster. Community radio stations were not encouraged and only a few were granted licenses by Home Affairs, the rest broadcasted illegally.
This Act encouraged principles such as freedom of speech, democratizing the airwaves, and access to all people among other principles. Barnett (1999) adds to this brief explanation of how broadcasting changed as the socio-political environment of South Africa did. “On paper, the IBA Act is quite radical in its commitment to regulation in the interests of democracy, diversity and development (Horwitz, 1996). In particular, it acknowledges that unfettered market forces in the media sector are a threat to diversity of ownership and opinion, and thus justifies regulation as essential for the reconstruction of the broadcasting system as a democratic public sphere. Broadcasting for each the public and commercial radio was different to what it became post-1994, as not only new laws were implemented but also because a new government was in power. A government which was promoting “services on a national, regional and local level so they serve all language and cultural groups, and provide entertainment, education and information.” (Radio lecture slides 2010). So the three tier system was in a sense formed to regulate radio stations which then began to cater to different audiences, different needs and therefore broadcasting and covering different news content.
Therefore, radio stations had to adhere to the new laws, especially those that were under the government. Commercial radio stations which became privately owned by individuals became profit driven and their aim was to sell audiences to their advertisers, they still broadcasted a lot of content which was not South African based. Conversely, Barnett (1999) shares with us that, “the IBA, however, had its own set of criteria for the regulation of radio broadcasting. These included limitations on cross-media ownership, a concern to ensure a viable market for diverse radio broadcasting, and diversity of both ownership and programming (IBA, 1996).”
Community radio stations began to broadcast content that supported the aim of having a more democratic country. Here, the community became involved in production activities. They were licensed to being: “independent of the government and of commercial organizations; to serve specific communities, either geographical or communities of interest; to have ownership and management representative of that community; to operate for purposes of social benefit rather than private financial profit and to enable participation by the community in program-making and management ” (http://portal.unesco.org). Therefore licensing conditions for ownership changed since community radio stations were meant to be editorially independent of any political party or religious institution it had to adhere to “not be directly or indirectly controlled by anybody of central or local governmental, or face undue influence by such bodies through ownership or funding” (http://portal.unesco.org)
Public radio stations became more concerned with building a democracy and serving to broadcast in light of public interest. It was run by a statutory body for the general public and had a public commercial and public broadcasting section. The SABC represents all culture in South Africa; they rely on advertising and license fees.
For instance with SAfm, it is a national broadcaster which has a signal that reaches around 95% of the country. It is a full spectrum public service radio, broadcasting in English to a target market of 35 – 49 years in the LSM groups 8 – 10. However, up to 1995, SAfm was a full spectrum station incorporating among many things, “news, information, music, art, drama, children’s programmes, sport, etc” (safm.co.za.). From 1995 onwards to 2006 SAfm began to exclude the drama and children’s programmes. SAfm also decreased on music content in favour of news and current affairs programmes in talk show format.
SAfm changed from being a full-spectrum radio station to being a talk radio was simply because it cost less. SAfm then became a talk radio as they did not in this case have to utilize money to pay producers, experts and journalists. However the station was instructed by ICASA, in 2006, to reintroduce drama and children’s programmes, (safm.co.za) or face penalties.
The staff at SAfm is made up of a mixture of presenters and producers who come from very wide and diverse backgrounds; this would therefore imply that they would have national access to news material they produce easily.
702 Talk Radio, which was voted as BBC’s Africa Radio Station of the year in 2006, appears to operate differently.
702 Talk radio provides talk-back radio to over half a million people in Gauteng. It is more profit driven, catering to their audience is important because if they cannot keep their listenership, they start losing revenue as advertisers will begin advertising on stations where there is a market for them.
702 Talk Radio, which targets the adult market, specifically upper income listeners around the ages of 25 – 49, the broadcasting has recently adopted a new format, with in-depth news, advice, opinions, views and information. It now regularly has specialists that come in with regard to a certain topic that they choose to speak about on a particular day.
The staff members come from diverse backgrounds, for example: most have a tertiary education, and not all are from a journalism background. The afternoon host David O’Sullivan, for example, was a lawyer before he moved into the media. 702 Talk Radio believes it is the experience presenters bring that is more important than formal studies. They pride themselves “on the wealth of experience our presenters have and we expect them to bring that experience to bear when talking about an issue. The talk shows are not expected to tow any specific line, nor should they be totally impartial: they are supposed to offer their views on an issue, as well as the views of any guests, and of course, those of the listeners. The idea is to create a conversation between the host and listeners so all viewpoints are welcomed” (P Rowles, Public relations and communications co-ordinator, Primedia Broadcasting).
To ensure this does not result in a homogenous viewpoint, the line-up includes men and women of different ages, races and background, so the views expressed on the shows are varied.
As colourful as the talk shows may be, Eyewitness News strives to be impartial, and tries to be unbiased. Eyewitness News services all four Primedia Broadcasting stations (Talk Radio 702, 94.7 Highveld Stereo, 567 Cape Talk and 94.5 Kfm) and is editorially independent of them.” (P Rowles, Public relations and communications co-ordinator, Primedia Broadcasting)
Having had read a few of the bulletins produced by both SAfm (public service broadcaster) and 702 Talk Radio (a commercial broadcaster); I have noted a few differences in the news content produced by the two stations, with a focus on bulletin compositions.
702 Talk Radio generally creates a conception of “being on the scene”, and this in a way gives them more credibility. Most of the news bulletins have wraparounds or reporters on site, whereas there is hardly ever, a straight read on 702 Talk Radio; this may also be a manner in which they try to make news more interesting for their audience. 702 Talk Radio sometimes try to refrain from directly referring to political parties and I believe this gives an audience the impression that they have no alliance with any political party so will therefore be fair, honest and present both sides of the story.
SAfm is under the SABC, so in a sense they are more prone to supporting the government as the government’s mouthpiece and in this way they are considered a state-broadcaster and gets directly funded by the government. SAfm does not put a lot of effort in the actual production of the news pieces. Some comments are irrelevant at times and they always have a straight read and a voicer, there is no interesting variation from time to time to show interest in what they do: their bulletins on the 6th of April 2010 were all packages with a sound byte and one straight-read, whereas on the same day 702 Talk Radio had two packages with a journalist on the scene which links back to their objective of creating an atmosphere which may make them more credible. SAfm therefore has a wider cover than 702 Talk Radio and their main focus is national news.
Also, in this bulletin for instance (6th April 2010), 702 Talk Radio and SAfm reported on Eugene Terreblanche’s murder but chose different angles. 702 Talk Radio chose to concentrate more on the trail, whereas SAfm concentrated more on the suspects and other charges.
In conclusion I believe that 702 Talk radio as SAfm does, try very hard to adhere to their policies and cater to their set target audience. The other difference I noticed in the bulletins on the 6th April 2010, is that when both stations reported on national politics, SAfm chose to concentrate on Sefularo’s HIV, where 702 Talk Radio concentrated more on the emotion around his death. The language used in each bulletin also indicated on the different manners in which the story was tried to be brought across, for example SAfm says the suspects, whereas 702 Talk Radio says two people. All these little differences refer back to what each radio station stands and caters for which was discussed earlier in the essay. The packages in the 702 Talk radio bulletins were generally longer than SAfm and this comments on their resources, as 702 Talk Radio has a trend of inviting specialists to talk on shows or go to sites to attain sound bytes. Both these stations adhere to policies by the ICASA in the sense that they increase the availability and quality of information, as fairly as possible “to create a competitive environment for delivering a wide range of high quality Communication and Postal services at affordable prices in order to assist I the overall economic growth and social development of the country” (http://www.icasa.org).
• Barnett, C. 1999. The limits of media democratization in South Africa: politics, privatization and regulation. UK: University of Reading
• P Rowles, Public relations and communications co-ordinator, Primedia Broadcasting: 2010
• Community broadcasting: good practice in policy, law and regulation
Steve Buckley, President, World Association for Community Radio Broadcasters
Paper prepared for UNESCO for World Press Freedom Day 2008 found at (http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/files/26657/12093891693steve_buckley_community_media_-_maputo_wpfd.pdf/steve%2Bbuckley%2Bcommunity%2Bmedia%2B-%2Bmaputo%2Bwpfd.pdf), retrieved on 11 May 2010.
MY REFLECTIVE REPORT
The following will be a reflective report in which I will critically reflect on my own production work in the third term, specifically the development story I produced, using the terms and tools I have been engaged in, in my radio and media studies course work. I will be dealing directly with the development story of the Masizame Youth Group based in Joza, Grahamstowm.
Grahamstown consists of two distinct communities, Grahamstown West, which refers to the town, and Grahamstown East, which refers to the township. As a student journalist at Rhodes University, this was very apparent to me when I first came here and these two communities almost seemed like two completely different worlds. It was very difficult for me to conceive of a balanced relationship between these two communities because the general social backgrounds of people who lived in these communities were very different. The theories I have come across this year on development journalism have guided me in structuring the story about the Masizame Youth Group.
Development journalism is a form of journalism that is similar to public journalism in some ways. Rosen (Haas 2007: 1, citing Rosen 1995: p. v) outlines three notions which represent both public and development journalism. Firstly he believes that both these forms of journalism challenges where the press should be headed, he also touches on the idea that public journalism is a set of exercises that have been put into play in reality and that it is a progress in which the transformation of possibilities of people and institutes are concerned.
Development journalism is different to mainstream journalism, which focuses on collecting and distributing factual information about current and recent affairs. This is different from development journalism which is “an intellectual enterprise in which the journalist should form a kind of free intelligence and should critically examine the aims of national development and the applicable instruments in a rational discourse and solve them by reasonable criteria free of social constraints” (Banda 2006: 5).
Development journalism tries to achieve this “intellectual enterprise” (Banda 2006: 5), by encouraging student journalists to help bring to life a space in which many different communities where citizens from different social backgrounds can speak and share ideas through healthy forms of criticism. The theories also encourage us to change how we perceive citizens from passive observers to active participants and making them aware that sometimes they will need to collaborate with the state to mobilize their plan of action. This is a good and viable approach to journalism as it is highlights what development journalism aims to serve, which is “the overarching goal of reducing social inequality among dominant and subordinate social groups, and facilitate a form of public discourse that combines the strength of face-to-face dialogue and mass-mediated deliberation” (Haas 2007: 20). It also achieves “intellectual enterprise” (Banda 2006: 5), by focussing on a “bottom-up” approach in journalism, which means that the story is told from the grassroots level.
Haas (2007: 42) states that “it is essential that journalists carefully consider which particular kinds of intervention would be required to adequately address given problems before they promote any public problem-solving”, even though this refers to public journalism, it is a similar to development journalism, and this inspired the feature on this story.
I decided not to choose a story but to go and look for problems that the Joza community in Grahamstown East are faced with, as they seemed to be a community at an immense disadvantage because of their social class. Because of time constraints I could not go out into the community for long durations of time to build a relationship with them so I decided on an alternative method of keeping my ears and eyes open. I came across an advert at Pick ‘n Pay that made references to one of the points which alluded to my approach to reporting and that was to “highlight stories about local citizens which have done exemplary things, taking responsibility for their own lives” (Agency document 2010). This part of the Agency document agrees with one of the key roles of development journalism, which is that citizens should be given a platform in which they can inspire others to take authority of their own lives. This story also highlighted a big community problem in Grahamstown East which is unemployment and referred to one of the roles I as a development journalist feel is crucial which is to create awareness around certain encouraging and inspiring issues. This story also highlighted the relationship between the class disparities within the community and I, found it really interesting that the founders group extended a hand in attempt to create a relationship with the community of Grahamstown West, by putting up adverts of the services that they were offering.
The Masizame Group was a different perspective on unemployment as I made use of less obvious sources such as experts and people who are in authoritative positions. This story also gave ordinary citizens, especially those trying to make a difference, a voice. This story was different from a mainstream approach in story telling as it was not just focussed on providing the audience of SABC, which are mostly middle-class black males and females with facts. The story I did is also a human interest so even though one cannot do something physically, to change this, they could relate to and in this way it could end up “building a sense of community pride or hope through creativity” (Agency document 2010). I perceive journalists as part of whichever community they are dealing with and should not serve to be a mere observers but that they should be facilitators, educators, entertainers and social commentators.
I decided to interview the founders and a worker from the Masizame Youth Group based in Joza. I chose to use these interviewees because they represented the group fittingly as they had founded it and watched it grow throughout the years even though it was not at an optimum pace. According to Buzwe Ntiyo, one of the founders and a worker of the Masizame Youth Group, a negative attitude towards the formalities of making something successful, such as meetings and reflecting critically on the way the group was maintained was a big problem among the members, this is accentuated by his words: “...they need something that is more immediate, they do not need something where we will sit and have meetings, all those formalities...I think that is the problem with people with people; they don't want to waste their time speaking.” This relates to the practice of journalism in development as his criticism of his community was not seen as being constructive.
At the end of putting this story together I perceived it as one that served the purpose of inspiring and encouraging change. These men took responsibility for their own lives, and I considered them to be local heroes, even if it was to a small scale. This story was structured in a manner to show the audience that the government is not always to be relied on to make a change in the community. This story was a direct “bottom-up” approach in which I told the story from the grassroots level, I told it because it represented a small group which bore an attitude that would transform the community if the community bore the attitude as a whole, a main aspect of development journalism.
I interviewed Buzwe Ntiyo, Andile Nyoka, Sango Mayalo and Andile Tywili in a recording studio at the journalism department because if I used a recorder the sound quality might have been affected from shuffling the microphone among four people. The environment I interviewed them in seemed to have encouraged them to take themselves and what they do at a more professional level and they opened up easily about sharing in the problems they have faced, are still facing and ways they are trying to improve their development. I also chose to use the ambience of an industrial workshop to form an image and set a scene that the audience could easily associate with and relate to. The narration was easy to listen to and provided as useful and informative links between all the sound bites. One of my biggest restrictions was time. The amount of time one spends on a story will determine how well it turns out, this is putting into consideration the time your interviewees are available which for me turned out to be a big problem that I had to overcome by having to work with all the material I gathered on my first interview. It was because I had to make sure I was accurate and professional in structuring the paper edit of the story. It starts with Sango Mayalo explaining what they do. The narration introduces the history of the group, how it started and why. This leads into a narration which introduces the difficulties they faced which is explained by Buzwe Ntiyo. It ends off with a positive narration of what the group is planning to do in the future, this gives hope. I chose to end the story in this manner as its main purpose was to encourage and inspire a new way of thinking in the community.
The main aims of development journalism according to Banda (2006: 5) are to encourage the audience to take part in the development as active participants instead of passive observers and also, to protect the interests of the audience that is concerned. In addition, it should also “examine critically, evaluate and interpret the relevance of development plans, projects, policies, policies, problems, and issues”, (Banda 2006: 6, citing Wimmer & Wolf 2005: 3). This informed my production work because I felt it was a developing project which planned ways in which to improve in the future, which means that the citizens would have to maintain a deliberation of issues surrounding the Masizame Youth Group. Development journalism also requires journalists to treat people as “subjects, actors and agents rather than as objects of victims with needs deficit”, (Banda 2006: 6), and I chose to portray my people as local heroes who were taking ownership of their lives. The approach of development process is characterized by many aspects and even though I alluded to the most vital aspects when putting my story together there were numerous other aspects of development journalism in which I come short of.
According to Banda (2006: 7), “development journalism should sometimes let the people more or less, run the media”, I fell short of this aspect of development journalism because of not having enough knowledge about who the Masizame Youth Group could approach to help them grow faster as an organization that provides employment and affects empowerment for those who need it.
Banda also refers to what Sen believes should be a focus in development journalism and that it should “focus on the extent to which ‘freedom’ (of conscience, expression, assembly, media, etc.) is actualised in the lives of citizens”, (Banda 2006: 6, citing Gunaratne 1996: 7, 8). This is not an aspect that was referred to in my story because it focuses more on a “report on people’s movements and organisations, on people’s struggles to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct social meanings for themselves” (Banda 2006: 7), and in so doing I came extremely short in engaging in “constructive criticism” on a larger platform (Banda 2006: 7) in the sense that I focussed more on the hardships faced by the Masizame Youth Group even and could not help them with organizations to approach in developing strategies they hope to implement from next year.
I also fall short in approaching my story in a conversational manner, but this was as a result of the amount of time I could spend with the members of the group because of their other commitments.
The focus “on the dimension of democracy” (Banda 2006: 7) did not come into play at all because it would overpower the voice of the grassroots by attempting to economise the development of this project, forgetting that “cultural power” (Banda 2006: 7) also plays a great role in building the coherent identity of a community.
In conclusion I would like to highlight that throughout this reflective report I place emphasis on the most important aspect of development journalism which is to highlight that “people are not consumers of media products. They are first and foremost, citizens, whose voices must be heard”, (Banda 2006: 12) and try to accentuate the focus on “rural (remotest) areas” (Banda 2006: 11).
The Masizame Youth Group’s story was a focus on first trying to create awareness around both Grahamstown West and East. Even though I would not be part of their future deliberations to improve their services, they shared with me an idea that they were going to mobilize next year, which was to hope to to increase their equipment to implement monthly workshops, in which they will teach unskilled people in the community how to use equipment according to their interest in cleaning and repairs services.
1. JMS3 Radio, 2010. “Agency Document”. Rhodes University: Grahamstown. Retrived from: http://ruconnected.ru.ac.za/mod/resource/view.php?id=62314, in April 2010.
2. Haas, T. 2007. “The emergence of public journalism” and “A public philosophy for public journalism” in The pursuit of public journalism: theory, practice and criticism. Routledge: New York.
3. Banda, F. 2006. “An Appraisal of the Applicability of Development Journalism in theContext of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)1”.
Grahamstown: Rhodes University. Retrieved from: http://ruconnected.ru.ac.za/file.php/2094/Development_journalism_PSB_presentation _to_SABC.pdf, in August 2010.