n Communicare : Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa - Community radio and identity construction post-1994 : research article

Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-0069



The South African social transition was accompanied by widespread media reform. Community radio stations were for the first time, set up to empower communities previously without access to the media. More than a hundred radio stations were licensed, and further provision was made for community television, even if it was nearly a decade later before there was any discernible movement in the area of community television. The paper addresses concerns about media, politics and identity struggles, viewed through the lens of community radio. While there is a wealth of literature analysing the development of various aspects of the South African media over the last decade, few, if any, studies specifically consider the role of community media. Set up after elections in 1994, expressly to create spaces for the articulation of marginal or "disadvantaged" groups, the community radio sector in South Africa has mushroomed, with nearly a hundred stations currently licensed.

This paper will explore the ways in which community radio has facilitated the construction of new identities. Adopting a case-study approach, the paper considers community radio station Bush Radio, discussing how the station interpellates diverse identities through its programming. In the Pink, for example, creates a space for the articulation of various gay identities, while the Children's Radio Education Workshop becomes a mediated space for youth in the new political dispensation to form a generational consciousness. The intersection of class, culture and language at Bush Radio, and on its airwaves, often results in the constant (re)negotiation of identities.
Furthermore, the paper also reflects on the religious or community-of-interest community radio stations, and argues that these stations further serve the purpose of identity building. The resultant listener loyalty results in increased sustainability; they serve the purpose of therapy or confession, giving listeners an outlet for frustrations; and finally, religious community radio stations become a virtual church, transcending physical boundaries and resulting in instantaneous religious community building.

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