Community radio and community representation : a case study of Highway Radio.
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The community broadcasting in South Africa has been accredited with a different mandate from public and commercial broadcasting. This mandate of 'difference' has been stimulated by socio-political conditions under which this sector has been instituted since the early 1990s. During this period, conferences and discussions were held around the liberation of media and airwaves, which directly led to the recognition of the importance and the role that could be played by the community broadcasting sector. This sector of broadcasting is still a new concept in South Africa. Ten years post apartheid; it is no longer defined as a voice for political activism, as it was during its inception. Firstly, its development stages have bent towards a focus in the development of previously disadvantaged communities. Secondly, community radio has been regarded as a way of democratising media, by making it accessible to marginalised and underrepresented communities. It becomes a tool through which they voice out 'who they are' (identity) and also an instrument with which they initiate their own development and empowerment, socially and culturally. The research paper traces the development stages of this sector in South Africa, chronologically from its conception in the 1990s, to its mushrooming from 1994 and its functioning in the late 1990s to the early 21st century. The paper explores the sociopolitical roots of community radio in the face of change from democracy to technocracy. The responsibility of the community media sector includes the fulfillment of participation and media democratisation themes. The theoretical framework discussed by Dennis McQuail (1987, 1994, 2000) under normative theories of the media and development communication theories anaysed by Srinivas Melkote (1991), Jan Servaes (1991), Fred Casmir (1991), also form part of this paper. This paper, with an understanding of the demand for the democratization of the media and airwaves during this period in our country's history, explores how a chosen community radio becomes a public and community representative in the media industry. It focuses on representation of the community by the radio station in its management and functioning. It takes as a case study Highway Radio station. Highway Radio defines itself as a Christian radio station, which broadcasts from Pinetown and reaches Durban and surrounding urban and township areas. The general objective of this paper is to discover a set of indicators that provide a background to which Highway Radio has been able to fulfill its mandate as a community service. This study aims at exploring the active application of the notion of community participation in management and running of the radio station. The democratic-participant media theory stipulates that media must be spearheaded by active participation while the NCRF (National Community Radio Forum) also stipulates that community radio is characterized by active participation in all the structure of its organization. This research, therefore, has been conducted to explore the possibility and applicability of these prerequisites.