Below are two of the written essay assignments I completed in the radio specialisation course:
Assignment: South African Media Landscape Assignment
Write an essay in which you contextualise the contemporary South African radio landscape, and analyse and contrast the news content produced by two of the following radio stations – SAfm (public service), 702 (commercial) and Bush Radio (community).
South Africa has a turbulent broadcasting history. From its conception and introduction to South Africa, radio was seen as a mouth piece for the government to control and enforce apartheid (Fourie, 2007). Since 1992, the radio landscape- and the broadcast landscape more broadly speaking- has been transformed (Fourie, 2007). In the following essay, I will look specifically at the way in which radio is regulated as well as the three different tiers of radio. Furthermore, I will analyse and contrast the news content of 702 Talk Radio (a commercial radio station) and Bush Radio (a community station) in order to understand the influence of institutional context on the production and distribution of news content. However, a greater understanding of the current radio landscape in South Africa is only possible by understanding its history and past developments.
The period from 1992 to 2000 saw a transformation of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) from a state-controlled broadcaster into an independent public service broadcaster (Fourie, 2007). A regulatory body, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), was established; and the private sector entered the broadcasting field (Barnett, 1999). The IBA Act, no.153 of 1993 was passed on 18 October 1993 and the IBA came into effect from March the following year with the primary purpose of regulating broadcasting (Barnett, 1999). This act, in essence, made a distinction between community, commercial and public broadcasters (Fourie, 2007). However, the IBA was involved in many scandals and was criticised by many. Thus, the decision was made to merge the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) with the IBA in 2000, to form the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) which is still in existence today (Fourie, 2007).
Although the IBA was not completely successful it was able to introduce community radio stations and begin the process of privatisation of previously state-owned broadcasters. With these different radio stations being set up, a distinction needed to be made between the different classes of broadcasting, thus, the three tier system was established (Fourie, 2007). This system identifies distinctions between public, commercial and community broadcasting (Fourie, 2007).
Public broadcasting is programming by a statutory body (in the case of South Africa, the SABC) to serve the different cultural and language groups of the country (Fourie, 2007). Furthermore, the programmes should contain educational, current affairs and news programming (Fourie, 2007). Commercial radio stations, such as 702 Talk Radio, are profit-orientated and, therefore, have specific target audiences and programming which would appeal to this audience (Barnett, 1999). Community radio stations are non-profit organisations used to serve a particular community, usually defined by its geographic location (Community Sound Broadcasting Policy Review, 2006). The community participates actively in broadcasting and they are funded by donations, sponsorships, grants or advertising membership fees (Broadcasting Act, 1999).
A closer comparison between radio stations from the different tiers reveals the great differences and distinctions between the tiers of broadcasting in terms of the institutional context, production if news, editorial policies, newsroom operations, resources and audiences. The commercial radio station, 702 Talk Radio and the community radio station, Bush Radio are two stations which highlight these differences.
Originally a music radio station, 702 Music Radio was marketed to a multi-racial youth market and became known as “The Rainbow of Sound” (National Association of Broadcasting, 2010). The focus shifted to a regional listenership from 1986 and the Witwatersrand became known as “702-land” (National Association of Broadcasting, 2010).From 1988 onwards, the format of 702 was changed to a talk-based programme and the upper income middle-class individuals between the ages of 25 and 49 were the primary target audience (National Association of Broadcasting, 2010). This target market has not changed much as 702 still targets individuals in the 8 to 10 LSM bracket (higher income bracket) and many of these individuals are between the ages of 25 and 49 (SAARF RAMS, 2010).
Bush Radio, on the other hand, is one of the oldest community radio stations in South Africa, based in Cape Town (Bush Radio, 2010). It initially began as an illegal radio station as it was not granted a broadcasting license until after democracy had been established. These agreements were only temporary until July 2002 when they were granted a four year licensing agreement (Bush Radio, 2010). Unlike 702, its primary motive is not profit. Instead it aims to promote social responsibility and critical thinking to communities who have been denied access in the past in order to assert their own individuality and pride (Bush Radio, 2010). Their mission statement states that the community should produce, “ethical, creative and responsible radio that encourages them to communicate with each other, to take part in decisions that affect their lives, and to celebrate their own cultures.” (Bush Radio, 2010). Thus, their role in the community is not broadcasting alone. They are also invloved in broadcasting, upliftment projects, training programmes and scholarships (Bush Radio, 2010). Furthermore, their target audience is specific to the underpriviledged communities in Cape Town (Specifically the Cape Flats), most of whom would be in the lower earning income brackets or unemplyed (SAARF RAMS, 2010). Furthermore, Bush Radio provides dofferent programmes in three local languages (English, Xhosa and Afrikaans) for children (6 to 18 years), young adults (18 to 24 year) and older adults of Cape Town (Bush Radio, 2010).
Currently, Eyewitness News is the news agency involved in the production of news for 702 Talk Radio (702 Talk Radio, 2009). Although their editorial guidelines indicate that “content is not driven by advertisers” and that “promotions and advertising are separate to the editorial content” it is important to note that 702 is a commercially driven radio station, profit orientated and driven by the wants and needs of consumers and advertisers (Fourie, 2007). The CEO of Primedia Broadcasting in 1997, Stan Katz, admitted that “we have never been under any illusion that we are anything but in the business of delivering prospects to advertisers” (Barnett, 1999). Alternatively, Bush radio relies on a number of avenues to source their station including donations, grants, sponsorships and advertising revenues which do not promote gambling, alcohol abuse, racism and sexism (Bush Radio, 2010).
702 is based in the up-market area of Sandton, Johannesburg and as a commercial radio station, has the means to employ a number of journalists and other professionals with previous training and experience in order to produce, develop and market its programming to its audiences (National Association of Broadcasting, 2008). Community radio stations generally have fewer resources available to them and much of the production is done by community members who have not had previous training. For example, Bush radio employs only five staff members, relying on interns, trainees and volunteers from the community (Bush Radio, 2010). While 702 Talk Radio operates with specific business imperatives with defined roles outlined within the station, Bush radio provides the community with the opportunity to run the station and be actively involved in the production and distribution of news (Bush Radio, 2010). A Board of Directors is elected every year to oversee production but a monthly Open Forum to all community members enables the community to make recommendations and suggestions on programming (Bush Radio, 2010). A Managing Director has the role of communicating between the staff, volunteers and community and the Board in the daily running of the station (Bush Radio, 2010).
With such differences in the institutional context, production of news, editorial policies, newsroom operations, resources and audiences of both 702 Talk Radio and Bush Radio, it is understandable that the production and distribution of news will also reveal differences. An analysis and comparison between the news bulletins of the commercial radio station, 702 Talk Radio and the community radio station, Bush Radio shows a great disparity between the composition and structure of news, the treatment of stories and the resources available to both stations.
I have chosen to focus on the bulletins which were read on 6 April 2010 and the way in which the murder of Eugene Terre’blanche was reported. Firstly, there is a difference in the angles taken by both station. Whereas Bush Radio looks at the murder and the trial and what has happened within this context, 702 Talk Radio looks more carefully at the judicial procedure and the role of the media in covering the trial. Reasons for this could relate to the audience they are serving and the needs and wants of the target audience. Thus, 702 Talk Radio promotes itself as a provider of news and intellectual opinion and caters for an older, wealthier audience whereas Bush Radio target a lower educated class and their focus is not based on news alone.
The style, duration, tone and register of the news reports are also very different. The tone and register of the Bush Radio news bulletin is a lot more casual and uses a lower register of English. This is not only because they are catering for their audiences, but also because news readers are volunteers and non-professionals. 702 has a more professional style and way of reporting because they have a reputation to uphold and they have professional news-readers who are less likely to make mistakes or mispronounce words.
The Bush Radio report on Terre’blanche’s murder is a straight- read. 702, on the other hand, introduces the story with a cue which is followed b a wraparound. This includes three different voices, professional opinions and ‘on-the-scene’ reporting which Bush Radio simply does not have the resources to do.
While Bush Radio has fewer and much shorter news bulletins, 702 tends to go more in-depth and offers news reports every hour, giving them more scope to play around with different angles. This is illustrated particularly well when comparing the Terre’blanche news stories and their durations. Bush Radio produced a 34 second straight- read while 702 had a one minute and 15 seconds report on the same story.
Resources and access to information are an important consideration which will affect the quality and length of reporting. As I have already mentioned, the news reporters for Bush Radio are often community members who volunteer to read the news, while 702 has hired professionals who have experience and training. A team of journalists have access to research and other resources while at Bush Radio, their access to information and sharing of content is a lot more limited.
These limitations can also affect the length of the report. Bush Radio does not have a lot of time to report on the news because no sponsorship of news is accepted (Bush Radio, 2010). Thus, they choose to keep it short and simple. Also, news is not the main function and focus of Bush Radio, unlike 702 who differentiates itself from other commercial stations by being a news and talk leader. 702 invests time and money on news for this reason, therefore, Bush Radio news bulletins are of a lower standard and a lot shorter than that of 702.
By looking at the different internal structure and functions of 702 Talk Radio and Bush Radio, it is clear that radio has come a long way. It has transformed from a state mouthpiece with the assistance of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) (and, from 2000, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)) which identified three tiers and separate licensing agreements for commercial, community and public broadcasters. These licence agreements have an effect on the editorial policies, target audiences, funding and resources of radio stations which, in turn affects the trends in the production and distribution of news. By looking at 702 Talk Radio and Bush Radio specifically, the differences in the structure and function of community and commercial radio have been outlined. These differences have an impact on the news and programming of stations and should be taken into account when listening to them.
702 Talk Radio. 2009. Eyewitness news is evolving. Retrieved 27 April 2010 from http://www.702.co.za/press/ewnlaunch.asp.
Barnett, C. 1999. The limits of media democratization in South Africa: politics, privatization and regulation. Media Culture and Society. Sage Publications: 21: 649–671.
Bush Radio. 2010. About Bush Radio. Retrieved 27 April 2010 from http://bushradio.wordpress.com/about/.
Fourie, P. 2007. (2nd Ed). Media Studies :Media History, Media and Society. Cape Town: Juta.
National Association of Broadcasting (NAB). 2008. 702 Talk Radio. Retrieved 27 April 2010 from http://www.nab.org.za/templates/member_template_58.asp .
South African Advertising Research Foundation. 2010. SAARF RAMS February 2010 Nielsen Company.
South African Government Gazette. 2006. Broadcasting Act, No. 4 of 1999. Retrieved 9 May 2010 from http://www.gov.za.
South African Government Gazette. 2006. Review of Community Sound
Broadcasting Policy: Position Paper. Retrieved 9 May 2010 from http://www.gov.za.
Assignment: Reflective report
Write a report of no more than 2000 words in which you critically reflect on your own production work in the third term, using the terms and tools you have been engaged in, in your radio and media studies course work.
The historical development of radio in
has been closely linked to the role and functions of the broadcast media since its inception in the late 1920’s (Fourie, 2007). Currently, there are three different tiers of radio: commercial (mainstream), community and public service broadcasting radio services (Fourie, 2007). In defining and outlining the function of development journalism I hope to illustrate the similarities and overlapping functions between development journalism and public service broadcasting as well as the discrepancies and differences between development journalism and mainstream journalism. I will re-examine the purpose of radio journalism in light of the function and purpose of development journalism by looking at the Agency document my class produced earlier this year. Furthermore, I will use this theory in order to define and explain the tools and techniques that are required in producing development journalism. I will then go on to explain the production process in creating developmental journalism, by looking specifically at what I did when producing my development package. Finally, I will use the theoretical and reflective tools of development journalism in critically evaluating my work. South Africa
In order to compare development journalism to mainstream journalism and public service broadcasting, it is crucial to understand and define development and the role and function of development journalism. Development is defined by
(1962) as a process in which society actively participates in order to bring about social and economic progress, which includes greater equality, freedom and responsibility for all citizens. In light of this definition, development journalism has been described as newsgathering and reporting which assesses, interprets and evaluates the progress and accomplishments of various plans, projects, policies and programmes as well as providing the context of the development process and the possible impacts this has on future growth (Shah, 1996). In doing so, it should highlight the needs of the majority of people in a particular country or region and the degree to which freedom is recognised in the lives of these people (Wimmer & Wolf, 2005). Rogers
The above definitions emphasize some of the differences in the aim, purpose and function between mainstream journalism and development journalism as well as some of the commonalities between development journalism and public broadcast journalism. These distinctions result in the role the community being viewed differently too. Firstly, development journalism, and public service broadcasting to an extent, views society as active participants in the conception, production and generation of news while mainstream journalism tends to view citizens as consumers of the news (Banda, 2006). The agency document (JMS radio, 2010) supports the development journalistic view of the role of the community in informing our work as journalists while also acknowledging the class, racial and language divides as well as the diversity in the community in terms of education, culture, ethnicity and religion.
Furthermore, while mainstream journalism uses a top-down approach in information-gathering and story-telling, development journalism as well as public service broadcasting prefers a bottom-up technique (Banda, 2006). In other words, while mainstream journalists seek expert opinion and insight, development reporters and public service broadcasters engage with citizens and encourage active participation in solving problems and being involved in the decision-making processes, and thus, the development of society (
, 2002). In terms of the agency document (JMS radio, 2010), the method and treatment of reporting highlights the developmental approach to the conceptualisation and production of news. The discrepancies in the way in which the public is viewed and the aim and function of the journalist will, as a result, impact on the production of news. Austin
One aspect relating to the production of news is objectivity. Glasser (1992) states that while mainstream journalists claim to be objective because they distance themselves from their news stories, the notion of objectivity is an ideology used to keep reporters in line and defend the positions of the elite, thus, making reporters less accountable and responsible for the news they produce. Development journalism, on the other hand, challenges journalistic practice by acknowledging the subjective role of journalists in the production of news (Banda, 2006). This is not to say that credibility is not an essential aspect to developmental reporting, on the contrary, it is a primary objective to report reliable news (Banda, 2006). Similarly, the agency document (JMS3 radio, 2010: 1) is in agreement with Glasser’s argument while, however, seeing the need to “maintain principals of factual based informative reporting”.
The defining theoretical terms and tools of development journalism (which have been discussed above) will be used in reflecting on my work as a development journalist. However, before this can be done, I need to explain the process involved in the production of my development feature. Before I could conceptualise a story idea, I had to understand what was meant by development journalism. Once I had a basic understanding of development journalism and my aim and role in the production of this development package, I spoke to some community members to try and find out about community projects and programmes in the area. This proved to be of little success which is why I conducted internet research on the projects taking place in the Grahamstown community. During this research process, I found a number or organisations but I was personally interested in the work of the Centre of Social Development (CSD). In short, this self-funded organisation trains community members around the
in becoming community development practitioners and early childhood development practitioners. I thought this was truly ‘developmental’ because it showed the active participation of the community members in identifying problems and finding possible solutions to problems. Eastern Cape
After researching the function of this centre, I e-mailed the acting director of the CSD, Jean Schafer in order to organise an interview so that I could better understand role of this centre and the impact it is having on the township community in Grahamstown. In other words, I wanted to interview her in order to get background information about the history of the centre, who is actively involved and who is benefiting the most from the training taking place. After a one-on-one interview with Jean Schafer, I arranged with one of the facilitators, who was currently giving a course, to speak to the community members she was training. In the form of a focus group discussion, I was able to speak to the community members and find out how successful they have found the course. This method was particularly useful in facilitating discussion. Lastly, I went to one of the schools to record ambience and see some of the children who were benefiting from this programme. Unfortunately time constraints and language barriers were some of the problems faced in terms of the gathering of the necessary information and, as a result, I was unable to interview the children or their parents.
The editing process is the final stage of production and involves compiling the paper edit for the package, editing audio and recording narration. In order to compile the paper edit, I listened to all the interviews and included the clips which, I felt, best explained the work of the community in brining about sustainable development, therefore, framing my package in a certain light. I started my package by using the ambience I received from the preschool centre as I felt this would ambience grab the listeners attention. After this I chose to include the voice of the acting director at the CSD as I felt she provided the necessary background information which would assist in orientating the listener and contextualising the story. I included male and female voices to add variation to the package. My narration was used to add coherence between the clips and provide additional information for the listener.
In order to understand the degree to which the production process I have mentioned above is, in fact, the practice of development journalism, I will reflect on the tools and terms which I have elaborated on in the beginning of this essay. In terms of Shah’s (1996) definition of development journalism, I have successfully reported on a development story because I have included the accomplishments of the CSD and the success that community members have had in developing something sustainable for the future. Furthermore, the inclusion of the community members who are currently being trained is important in the depiction of the community as active participants in society who are involved in the decision-making processes and the production of news, rather than passive consumers of media (Banda, 2006). This is an important aspect of development journalism which is also emphasised in the function of citizens in the agency document (JMS radio, 2010).
There are, however, some shortcomings of my production process in terms of story conceptualisation, information gathering and framing. I relied on a top-down approach in discovering the story and getting background information on the subject. Development journalism, on the other hand, prefers a bottom-down approach in which the community are, essentially at the heart of the story (Banda, 2006). This point is re-iterated by the inclusion of Jean Schafer, the Acting Director of the CSD, at the start of the package. During the editing process, I viewed this as a potential problem because her voice is an expert opinion on the topic, while development journalism requires the stories and voices of ordinary people to be heard (
, 2002). However, I decided to include her voice in order to contextualise the story and provide background information. Austin
As was mentioned in the agency document (JMS radio, 2010) as well as the production process of my development story, there were language barriers and time constraints which influenced the information gathering process and, as a result, the package did not have the perspectives from parents or other community members who are benefiting from this programme. In light of this, I would have liked to get these perspectives in order to make the story more diverse and, thereby, focus on the totality of the situation (
, 2002). Austin
Lastly, in understanding objectivity in the production of my development package, it is important to note that I acknowledged my position and the power that I had in shaping the package, however, I used this power in the correct way while still being accountable as a journalist. This echoes the role of the development journalist expressed by Banda (2006), as well as the objective role of the journalist stated in the agency document (JMS3 radio, 2010).
Although I was not completely successful in practicing development journalism, I think the development package I produced emphasises important aspects of this kind of journalism. In understanding the definition of development journalism, I was able to illustrate the overlapping role and function of public service broadcasting, on the one hand, and the differences between development journalism and mainstream journalism, on the other hand. This comparison was particularly relevant in terms of the function, aim and role of the journalist. The fundamental terms and tools of development journalism were stressed in this comparison and, through the investigation and critical reflection of my own production process, I was able to critically analyse these terms and tools in relation to my work. I was also able to compare the agency document and identify similarities to development journalism in defining the community and the role of the journalist in this community.
Austin, L. 2002. Public journalism in the newsroom: putting the ideas into play. . Available: http://www.imdp.org/artman/publish/printer_87.shtml. Accessed on
Banda, 2006. An Appraisal of the Applicability of Development Journalism in the Context of Public Service Broadcasting (
PSB). In: 'News Content Planning' workshop of the South African Broadcasting Corporation ( SABC), 20 Oct - 22 Oct 2006, Boksburg, South Africa. (Unpublished).
Glasser, T.L. ‘Objectivity and News Bias’ in Cohen, E.D. (ed). 1992. Philosophical Issues in Journalism.
: OxfordUniversity Press. Oxford
JMS3 Radio. 2010. Third Year Radio Agency
Mission Statement. Grahamstown: . Rhodes University
Rogers, EM. 1962. Diffusions of innovations.
: Free Press. New York
Shah, H. 1996. Modernization, marginalization, and emancipation: toward a normative model of journalism and national development. Communication Theory 6(2): 143-166.
Wimmer, J & Wolf, S. 2005. Development journalism out of date? An analysis of its significance in journalism education at African universities. . Available: http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/archive/00000647/. Accessed on