Radio poised to deliver the State of the Nation Address to the largest audience
South Africa joins the global community in celebrating World Radio Day (WRD) under the theme, “We are diversity, we are radio”. In advocating for diversity on the airwaves, UNESCO calls on radio stations to uphold pluralism on the radio, representation in the newsroom and promote content and programming diversity reflective of a variety of audiences.
Celebrated annually on February 13, WRD seeks to raise greater awareness about the importance of radio; encourage decision makers to establish and provide access to information through radio; as well as enhance networking and international cooperation among broadcasters.
The first radio broadcast for entertainment and music was transmitted from Brant Rock, Massachusetts to the general public on 24 December 1906. In South Africa, the first experimental radio transmission was a music concert broadcast by the Western Electric Company.
This year’s WRD commemoration coincides with the State of the Nation Address which will be delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa before a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament. Effectively, SoNA may be accessible to almost 36 million radio listeners who either tune in to public, commercial or community radio stations across the country, from a variety of devices. These include standalone radio, cell phone, vehicle radio, television and livestreaming.
Radio is widely considered as a low-cost medium specifically suited to reaching remote communities and vulnerable people, offering a platform to intervene in the public debate, irrespective of people’s educational level. It also plays a crucial role in emergency communication and disaster relief. In South Africa, radio delivers content in all eleven official languages and seven non-official languages – this, mostly attributed to the SABC African Language Stations (ALS).
Whilst this being the case, one cannot discount the growing importance of community radio, which is collectively the third largest tier of broadcasters nationally with 8.8 million listeners (26% share) found in mostly rural areas across all the provinces. Since 1998, the Department of Communications has supported community radio through programme production training and sector funding.
Radio is uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster positive dialogue for change. As such, the department encourages all radio stations to effectively use the platform to facilitate dialogue, promote diversity, help prevent radicalization and violent extremism, condemn violence and hate speech; as well as promote inclusion, equality and intercultural dialogue.
The Department further encourages radio stations to revolutionalise the delivery of content to its audience by being responsive to the rapidly changing broadcasting landscape. By using other mechanisms such as video to enhance radio experience, stations do not only visually bring the story to life, but also expose the radio brand to a larger audience.
South Africans across the length and breadth of the country are urged to tune into the State of the Nation Address this evening at 19:00 using their preferred platform, including radio.