[Covid19] South Africa: NATIONAL COMMUNITY RADIO FORUM COMMEND GOVERNMENT SUPPORT TO COMMUNITY MEDIA DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) notes with gratitude the South African government’s confidence in, and support for the community radio sector. We are particularly encouraged by the Media Development and Diversity Agency’s (MDDA) announcement of the relief fund which will cover some costs to the value of R45 000.00 (Forty-five Thousand Rands) per community broadcaster. We are happy that the MDDA adequately consulted with the NCRF to expand value creation for the community radio sector. The relief fund although not enough will go a long way in assisting stations to execute their mandate. We note that the relief was announced a few days before the end of the MDDA financial year and trust that more consultations and improved support will happen in the new financial year. The MDDA board will tomorrow, 28 March 2020, consider an additional amount for rent/bond as proposed by the NCRF.
The NCRF was also pleased to hear the pronouncement by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams extending a 3 months payment holiday and grace period to minimise the negative impact to the community broadcasters using Sentech services. The community broadcasters will be exempted from paying Sentech for a period of 90 days. “All community broadcasters have to broadcast and provide information to all people without fear of being switched off” Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams.
The NCRF notes that on 11 March 2020 the MDDA made a call for application for support towards Sentech fees. We commend the MDDA for the initiative and congratulate the successful stations. The NCRF will continue to engage the MDDA in order to secure a lasting solution for signal distribution in the sector.
The NCRF has also noted that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has earmarked funding to provide support to Grade 12 learners using community radio. We believe that the DBE has made a very wise decision in partnering with community radio. It is however disappointing that the Department of Water and Sanitation is currently using commercial broadcasters catering to higher income audiences to communicate a message about lack of access to water services. This message is aimed at the poorest of the poor who almost exclusively listens to community radio. The department is ignoring the 8 million listeners of the community radio sector. The NCRF is continuing
to engage the department in the hope that they will be convinced to see the benefit of using community broadcast services.
The cancellation of advertising campaigns is resulting in a tremendous loss of revenue and we are hoping that through continued government support the sector will weather- the-storm. We encourage our members to continue giving trustworthy and credible information to the community to counter false news by social media. The safety of our volunteers and employees must be prioritised as always. We call on our members to work within municipal districts where they are licensed to broadcast in order to protect our staff members and help prevent the spread of the virus. Community Radio is the lifeblood of local development and stations are urged to serve our communities in local languages with quality content. Collaboration and the sharing of reliable information within our networks will prove once again that we are from the people by the people.
In conclusion we hope that provincial and local government will prioritise community
radio as the closest form of media to the majority of poor South Africans. Radio remains the best platform to deliver information in local languages.
Issued by: Thabang Pusoyabone General Secretary
National Community Radio Forum