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Community Radio Takes On Gender and World Cup

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 11:47
Community radio is still the most accessible source of information and news for many communities. Community radio listeners are eager to know what is happening worldwide, but most important, to access news and information relevant to their communities. It should pay special attention to voices from community sources, which are often excluded in the mainstream media. It has an opportunity to report on, for example, challenges faced by informal traders as the FIFA World Cup nears, while during the event, community radio can do live broadcasts from unofficial fan parks, cover other tournament-related activities and ‘speak the greetings of the incoming visitors’. In addition, it could play an important role in raising the voice of public opinion and making every voice count during the World Cup and beyond
The world's media eyes will soon squarely focus on South Africa, with millions from across the globe tuning in via multimillion-dollar broadcasts. Yet, even as the international media and big broadcasters move in, and journalists descend from all over the world, in South Africa, like much of Africa, community radio is still a key source of information and news for many communities, linking local activities and issues with international perspectives.

While other news media, especially print, struggle to keep audiences, community radio listenership in South Africa is continuously rising. According to the South African Advertising Research Foundation, community radio is improving its weekly reach, rising from 7.340 million listeners to 7.713 million between February and May this year alone.

One of the contributing factors cited is the increasing listenership among youth and women. Perhaps it is because, although we live in an increasingly globalised world, audiences still crave community issues and information relevant to their everyday lives.

Community radio is often more likely than mainstream media to include voices form community-based sources, and women sources. For example, monitoring of community media by Gender Links during the April 2009 elections showed that women constituted 34 percent of news sources, compared to 20 percent in monitoring of the mainstream media conducted by Media Monitoring Africa over the same period.

In celebration of 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, Gender Links, South Africa's National Community Radio Forum (NCRF), and the Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET) conducted a debate to tackle the convergence of these issues - community media, gender, and the upcoming World Cup 2010.

According to NCRF director Frankilin Huizies, while community stations may not have the much sought after and very expensive broadcast rights, there's many creative ways to make sure local listeners get in on the World Cup action. "How can we take advantage of the World Cup?" Huizies challenged the audience comprising mostly of community broadcasters. "Stations can do live broadcasts form unofficial fan parks, cover other activities around the tournament, and even teach their communities to speak the greetings of the incoming visitors," suggested Huizies.

Brenda Leonard of Bush Radio echoed these thoughts, explaining that Bush's strong commitment to gender equality and ensuring the participation of women means they often get the interesting stories that everyone else misses. For example, an all woman work force was responsible for installing the stadiums beautiful and complex glass ceiling, a story that Bush sought out to cover.

Human trafficking and possible dangers to children during the event has been a serious source of concern for the government and parents. Even before the advent of the Cup. Bush has a strategy in place to deal with such emergencies. "We have a policy that if anyone goes missing, at any time, any programme is immediately stopped and that information goes out on air," explained Leanord. "The first four hours are the most crucial, so the information is urgent."

According to Leonard, community radio's job is also to tackle the big issues, what's gone wrong. She explained that one of the stories Bush has followed closely is the displacement of informal traders, often resulting from strict FIFA by-laws about where business can take place in and around stadiums. "All the traders are gone," she said. "We need to talk about where they are now."

One such trader is Cecilia Dube, who was part of the crew of women that provided refreshments for workers during the construction at Soccer City outside of Johannesburg. Dube is frustrated with media, recalling many interviews that did nothing to stop the forcible removal of her and her colleagues from spaces they occupied for four years.

For Dube, the displacement is bad enough, but adding insult to injury is the lack of recognition of the vital role such traders played. "I may not have touched a brick on that stadium," she says, "but I helped to build it. Without me and other traders, those workers would have had to travel far for food, and the job would not have been done." She wonders why all of the advertisements and television programmes have missed talking about the contribution of such women.

Dube remembers sadly that she was ‘one of the people who jumped sky high’ at the announcement of South Africa as host. She puzzles at why the traders are suddenly deemed ‘unsightly’ and unwanted by the government. "They forget that many doctors and lawyers were raised on the earnings of such traders," she points out. "Many traders are women who are the only breadwinners in the family, and losing their income means not food or clothes for their children," she pointed out.

Dube says the traders, or as she prefers, small business operators, are most disappointed because many thought the World Cup would mean the much needed capital to become formalised. "Provide us with an office and capital and we'll show you how informal we are," she challenged.

According to Nomasonto Magwaza, Programme Coordinator at ESSET, the displacement has not yet ended. "We have heard that traders from Bree Mall have now been told to leave. On 21 Mach, traders were forcibly removed from Park Stations," she said. "Yet renovations slated to begin 1 May have not yet stated, and traders are asking why?"

This kind of displacement has not received widespread coverage in the media, and there is a certain reticence to ‘spoiling the party’ yet as those present at the debate discussed, it is important to highlight the good stories, while pointing out what needs to be done differently for any future events, anywhere on the continent.

As Kubi Rama, Deputy Director of Gender Links pointed out, "It is the voices of the Cecilia Dube's across the country that we need to hear." She recalled the recent incident where security barred a female Sowetan photographer Vathiswa Ruselo from entering a section of Orlando Stadium, stating that "You are a woman. Women have their places and that is where you belong." Rama questions, "What does this mean for coverage of the World Cup?"

For community radio, the need to cover these stories leaves a gap. "Most community radio constituents are those who cannot afford tickets. These are the most important people to ensure access to coverage,” said Rama.

Even without the big broadcast rights, community radio is sure to be at the centre of the action. For the hosts of the debate there is renewed commitment to ensure that community voices, especially those of women, are among those heard during all of the World Cup festivities. They agreed that while they can't change the rules of the World Cup, they can help raise the voice of public opinion, making every voice count during World Cup and beyond.

- Deborah Walter is the Editor of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service and Director of CMFD Productions. This article is part of the GL Service that provides fresh views on everyday news. It is republished here with the permission of Gender Links.
Author(s): 
Deborah Walter