9 things you can do to build community media
1. Get involved
According to the Electronic Communications Act, community broadcasters must involve the community on the ownership and control of their radio and/or TV stations. Stations must account to communities at Annual General Meetings, democratically elect their Boards, and offer opportunities for people to produce programmes. No one can stop you from shaping your community broadcasters.
2. Get informed
You have a right to get copies of your station’s licence agreement, constitution and financial reports. The licence agreement, issued by Icasa, will tell you what the station’s mandate is and what type of shows they have agreed to produce. The constitution will tell you more about the station’s objectives and how they elect their Boards.
3. Become a news source
Community radio stations must broadcast news bulletins almost every hour of the day. But too often community journalists do not have the time and funds to cover all the developments in their community. Support them by becoming a source of information. Get to know your station’s journalists, have their phone numbers (make sure they have yours). Let them know when something important happens and invite them to your events.
4. Produce a show
Every station should have a regular meeting where community members can comment on all the programmes and propose new shows. Consider hosting a regular show on a topic close to your heart. Every week you should be ready to do some research on an issue, invite guests, and be at the station on time to take to the airwaves.
5. Give feedback
Most stations have a number other of ways to hear from their communities. From call-in shows to SMS lines, outside broadcasts to suggestion boxes. Become an active part of the station. Let them know when they are doing well and where they can improve.
6. Participate in the AGM
By law every station should have an Annual General Meeting (AGM) where they present a Station Manager and financial report, get feedback on progress, and elect a Board to govern the station. Details of the AGM should be announced on air and every listener/viewer can attend. Go to the AGM, have a say, and consider standing for election to the Board.
7. Be patient
Most people at community stations are doing the best job they can under very difficult conditions. Your requests and feedback may not get the response you want immediately. Be patient and try to understand the problem from the stations perspective. But don’t give up. Be ready to push your issue up the agenda from a presenter/reporter to the Station Manager, to the Board, to the AGM.
8. Keep stations accountable
Your station is licenced by Icasa and must comply with licence agreements regarding the kind of programmes they must broadcast, the languages they must use, and how they enable community participation. Stations must also ensure their news and current affairs programmes are balanced and accurate. If your station is not complying with their agreements you should make a complaint to the Icasa’s Complaints and Compliance Committee. Call 011566 3000, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and find the guide to making a complaint here: www.r2k.org.za/icasa-complaint.
9. Get support
Build alliances to increase your influence, within your community or with national organisations that work to strengthen community media. Contact R2K’s media freedom/diversity organiser, Micah Reddy (083-297-3444 or 0214471000) or the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Campaign (soscoalition.org.za or 0117881278).
Together we have a stronger voice!
This article originally appeared in R2K’s tabloid, Your Right2Know, in October 2014.