The South African media landscape is forever evolving, no better platform to depict these changes than community radio. The dynamic growth of the sector is as a result of a number of stations licensed and coming on line, as well as the increased relevance of stations in their respective communities, which continues to contribute towards the steady growth of the sector. We will see this growth trend continue to hold in 2019 as more and more stations perfect the art of hyper focused, locally relevant and nuanced programming.
This innovative programming will also be delivered increasingly through additional platforms beyond the traditional FM frequency. More and more stations are engaging with their audiences online and creating new audiences through their online platforms. Some have recorded more social media followers than their traditional FM frequency listeners as measured by the BRC. Digital platforms have also been used to deepen levels of engagement with audiences.
As data costs begin to plateau, more audiences begin to consume their media in spaces and at times more convenient to them as well as for longer hours. This has resulted in an increased number of new audiences emerging. New digital empowered revolution bodes well for the sector at large.
The revised ICASA regulations on Community Broadcasting may help to streamline and improve governance and control at most stations. From 2019 onwards we will begin to see mergers of a few stations who operate largely in the same geographical areas, and closer collaborations by others in the sector as a result of the improved regulations which create a more stable and enabled environment.
Looking ahead we see that community broadcasting sector will continue to be a reservoir of talent for Public and Commercial broadcasting in South Africa, and this talent supply stream will continue to flow especially because sector specific training institutions continue to churn out the skills and talent required by the industry. A new cohort of radio sales, programmers, managers, IT and broadcast engineers graduate from these institutions continue to swell the ranks of the stations. This investment into the talent and skills pool continues to yield the desired dividends for the industry.
Whilst 2018, was a challenging year for the broadcasting industry as a whole from an advertising perspective, with the reported technical recession in the second and third quarter of 2018, equally community radio was not spared the impact of declining traditional advertising revenue. This decline has forced the sector to re-imagine its business model and revenue streams. New forms of content revenues are beginning to emerge largely driven by audience demands and not what stations traditionally pushed towards audiences. Increased levels of engagement with audiences and building loyalty base has become the new standard.
Such innovation will be a major driver of revenue across the industry. Community radio remains the key driver of hyper focused consumer insights and a hidden gem for advertisers in so far as its ability to meet consumers, especially the mass market consumers in spaces and through platforms they relate to best and in languages as well as dialects that resonate with them.
In 2019 community radio’s value proposition to curate and deliver these audiences both on their traditional FM frequency as well as on their digital platforms will come to the fore.
Nkopane Maphiri is CEO of The Media Connection.