Bush Radio, one of Cape Town’s oldest and most respected community radio stations, is under threat. The station, that broadcasts from Woodstock, sent out a letter requesting support this week as the economic recession takes a chunk out of their advertising and their costs, particularly rent, escalates.
“For more than two decades Bush Radio has been at the forefront of broadcasting in South Africa, playing an integral part in the development and advancement of both the industry and individuals in the local broadcasting landscape. Over the past three years, however, this pioneering radio station and training centre has been hit hard by the current economic climate, recently resulting in Bush Radio having to re-evaluate its operations in order to remain sustainable and influential in this fast-changing and exciting environment.
“From campaigning against the apartheid government for a free and independent broadcasting authority, to being present on Cape Town’s Grand Parade when Nelson Mandela addressed the nation as a free man, Bush Radio has played an indelible part in the shaping of the history of the new South Africa,” the letter reads.
“Our landlord has given us until the 31 August to come with a tangible proposal, and we have decided to use this time to try and raise this money. The total cost we are trying to raise is R300,000 = Euro 30,000 = US $ 43,000.
“Bush Radio provides a valuable, relevant and much-needed service in the communities of the Western Cape. Our legacy of assisting and being supported by communities all around the Cape is extensively documented (visit our website at www.bushradio.co.za ), and due to our role as the pioneer of community radio in South Africa, we feel that our work is not yet done,” it says.
Sandra Gordon, publisher of TheMediaOnline and The Media Magazine says: “Community radio struggles against highly organised commercial stations run by corporates and against the SABC’s Community stations that are propped up with tax payer and government funding.”
TheMediaOnline caught up with managing director, Brenda Leonard, to ask her about the current state of play.
How has such an acclaimed station come to this. Is it lack of advertising and sponsorship?
The advertising industry spends the bulk of its budgets on commercial broadcasters and SABC, and only a small amount is spend on community radio. The reason for this is that the decision makers in advertising spend money on the stations they know, and this is not necessary community radio. As a result, we always struggle to raise income via advertising and sponsorship, and the advertising industry needs to be educated. In addition, Bush Radio does not take any alcohol advertising, does not support gambling or promote any religion, and this cuts out more than 60% of any potential advertising.
What has changed from the past in terms of advertising and sponsorship?
The advertising revenue has increased annually, but since the 2009 economic crisis, which still continues today, the advertising and sponsorship revenue has decreased. This has caused huge problems for all community radio stations including Bush Radio.
What is the profile of your typical advertiser
Local FET or college that spends max R5000 per campaign, about twice a year.
Do you get support from the big guys such as cellphone companies?
We do get some advertising from cellphone companies which comes via media buyers and advertising agencies. However, compared to what is spend on commercial broadcasters or SABC, it’s not a lot.
Have you made investments into new equipment or infrastructure?
No, we have not made any new investments into equipment or infrastructure. In 2010 and 2011, we applied to the Department of Communication for an equipment grant, via its equipment rollout programme, but we have not been selected. We were successful in raising some funds to partially upgrade our studio via UNESCO in Windhoek, as part of a training and programme production project. Besides this, we spend R42 000 per month on rent, due to the escalation of the rent since 1997, when we moved into this building. This is a huge burden, as we need to raise these funds monthly via advertising and sponsorship, and we have not always been successful each month, which created arrears on our rent account.
Is your foreign intern programme still operational?
Yes our intern programme is still operational. We do get approximately 10 foreign interns each year, and we charge them R5000 per month for the internship.
Sandra Gordon, publisher of TheMediaOnline and The Media Magazine says: Community radio struggles against highly organized commercial stations run by corporates and against SABC’s Community stations that are propped up with tax payer and government funding…is this the case where Bush is concerned?
We are expected to compete with the commercial stations and SABC, but we do not have the same transmitter output (Bush Radio has 250 Watt while SABC has thousands), staffing or financial support. In addition, we are expected to play 40% local music (which is part of our responsibility), but are charged huge amounts for playing and promoting local music. All these issues, including SAARF and SAMRO, needs to be looked at.
What do you mean by Bush having to ‘re-evaluate its operations’?
Bush Radio’s operations consist of its broadcasting, training programmes and its community upliftment projects that are implemented in the Cape Flats. If this financial situation continues, we would need to look at where we can scale down to suit our income. This will be a pity, as our projects and radio programmes deals with issues affecting the daily lives of people.
What is your vision for the future if you had the capital to do it?
Broadcasting quality programmes (which we do), but with sufficient staff to produce quality inserts as part of our programming. A full time broadcast training academy, where we train aspirant broadcasters daily.
Sufficient funds to continue with our projects such as our Children’s Radio Education Workshop (CREW) project where children aged 6 – 18 years are trained to produce and present their own programmes. Our HIV and AIDS education project that does awareness programmes at schools about HIV and
AIDS. Sufficient funds to improve people’s lives, such as putting the rain covers on shacks to keep the occupants dry, running safe and healthy day care facilities for the surrounding communities and doing inter-generational debates between young and old, sharing their experiences and learning from each other.
Read the Bush Radio blog and request for support here: www.bushradio.wordpress.com