The Ivan May Radio Academy
Supported by the Valley Trust. In Memoriam Taco Kuiper
Community Radio in South Africa has evolved into a critically important element of the country’s communication environment – as well as for the country’s democratic society as a whole. Originally proposed in the country’s broadcasting law and regulations that were part of the overall transformation into a non-racial, democratic society, community radio stations have become an essential ‘common space’ in the nation’s communication environment. Despite the high visibility and significant infrastructure of television, newspapers and the Internet, surveys continue to show that South Africans pre-eminently receive news and other community information from radio.
Besides the impact of its own broadcasting, community radio has become a vital training ground for the rest of the nation’s broadcasting industry. Numerous broadcasters, production engineers, management staffers and electronic journalists around the country have gotten their start at community stations and then ‘graduated’ on to other stations and networks. This is both expected and appropriate. Community radio should be an incubator and stepping stone for the newly emerging talent for the larger broadcasting sector. However, while there are a number of educational programs dedicated to training broadcasters, journalists and technicians, most of these programs are designed as part of the regular, formal progression of education. University programs in media, media studies and journalism, for example, generally require entry to the university and a university exemption in matriculation examinations. This keeps many – perhaps most – potential trainees from even entering the formal training stream, let alone gaining the skills needed to enter the media sector as well-trained employees. Training and education, organized and managed by community radio represents an important alternative approach and model. Community radio employees, volunteers and trainees are self-selected by their interest in the sector and the primary requisites are capability and interest, rather than formal qualifications. Accordingly, training designed by a community radio station and its practitioners focuses most intently on skills transfer, rather than formal qualifications for entry. In accord with SETA training in South Africa, Radio Today is now in the process of developing its own independent training academy to provide intensive, longer-term training that will bring historically disadvantaged trainees (and others as appropriate) into the job market as well-trained, competent, well-qualified individuals. They will be able to join the ranks of broadcasters, journalists, management/sales staff and production engineers to fill positions in the community radio sector, commercial radio, national radio and other sound engineering employment. This kind of training can make a significant contribution to the democratization of broadcasting culture, provide support for the further diversification of content in the media and support for South African national goals of institutional transformation by training and empowering a much wider range of voices on air and in management offices of broadcast media. Radio Today already has a proven community track record of training. Over the past three years, Radio Today has provided on-the-job, hands-on training in radio production and engineering, sales, and news/special events journalism to nearly two-dozen South Africans interested in gaining access to training and work in broadcast media. Moreover, a larger scale training program is now in the planning stages. Once fully in operation, this program will be well-positioned to provide professional, yet practical, training on a longer term basis for new entrants into the field. However, intensive training activities that aim towards capacity building for community stations already in operation – and for the personnel at such stations – remains an important, yet generally unmet, need. Radio Today is located in the centre of South Africa’s business, economic, media and academic heartland in Johannesburg. The station already has a range of cooperative program initiatives with a wide range of organizations and NGOs, a strong capability in economic/business reporting, a growing roster of special events programs – and increasing financial and managerial strength. As a result, Radio Today is well placed to develop and administer an intensive, hands-on program for other community radio stations