Community radio and television stations provide a vital link in the information chain, serving specific regions with local news, events and entertainment.
To broadcast as a radio or television station permission must be granted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which regulates the broadcasting sector.
Says Paseka Maleka, ICASA manager of Media and Stakeholder Liaison Communications and International Relations: “Currently there are 180 licensed community radio stations across South Africa. There are five television stations with current licences and one with a temporary licence.’
The five licensed stations include Bay TV (now known as One KZN TV) serving the KwaZulu-Natal area; Cape Community Television serving the Western Cape greater city metropolis; Soweto Community Television serving the Gauteng greater Soweto area; Trinity Broadcasting Network serving the Eastern Cape Bisho area; and Tshwane Community Television serving the City of Tshwane municipal area.
Nelson Mandela Bay TV, which serves the Eastern Cape Nelson Mandela Bay area, holds the temporary licence.
Gauteng-based production company Urban Brew Studios has entered into a partnership with Soweto TV, One KZN TV and Bay TV.
Says Marco Velosa, group sales and marketing manager of Urban Brew Studios: “We have a management agreement in place to help generate content and revenue. The channels themselves, however, have a management structure and an independent board.
“Our first partnership was with Soweto TV, which has been in place for almost six years. Urban Brew has helped to manage and grow the channel successfully during this period and learnt some hard lessons along the way. We’ve seen viewership figures and revenues grow exponentially. The trick for us is to sustain this growth and continue to mine Soweto TV’s potential.’
Urban Brew is heavily involved in the facilities side of these stations and has assisted in putting the infrastructure in place at the respective sites. The signals all originate from the stations themselves but Urban Brew digitally splices the ads into the various transmissions at its Randburg studio.
“I think that with the right commercial partners these stations can be sustainable,’ says Velosa. “Soweto TV has been hugely successful both in growing its viewership and revenue but there are also unsuccessful channels which battle to keep afloat. Soweto TV has grown from an initial AMPS (All Media and Products Survey) viewership figure of 714 000 (past seven days AMPS 2008AB) to a present figure of 2 581 000 (past seven days AMPS 2011AB), and we expect to be pretty close to the three million mark in the next AMPS release.
“As viewership grows so does revenue generated from advertisers, making the stations self-sustaining in the long term. You still need a partner to help you through that initial growth period.
“Also, regions like Gauteng will always be more successful for obvious reasons but other regional stations provide a niched and attractive alternative for marketers to reach specific target markets.’
Revenue generation is mainly from advertisers in the generic and sponsorship form. Some revenue is generated through outside broadcasts and coverage of special events but this is more sporadic and unreliable.
Velosa concludes: “I believe regional TV will hold a key role in the future TV landscape and provide audiences and marketers with interesting options other than mainstream TV.’
By Andy Stead
Screen Africa magazine – August 2012