Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 03:56:29 -0200
From: email@example.com (ANC Information)
To: Multiple recipients of list <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Mayibuye - October 1995
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From miscommunication to mass communication
By Karen Thorne, Mayibuye, Vol. 6, no. 6
At a time of great change in South Africa's broadcasting environment,
community television is coming into its own as the RDP of the broadcasting
sector, writes Karen Thorne.
After years of resistance struggle and a subsequent focus in public policy
work, community media activists are having to come to grips with the real
and far more challenging realities of working within a developmental
context in the building of community access television in South Africa.
This challenge has been taken on by the newly-formed Open Window Network
(OWN), a national network of 22 community based video and television
initiatives as well as service organisations working in training,
production, distribution and exhibition. OWN is advancing a national
programme aimed at promoting community access to television in South
The long term goal of OWN is to develop a community television sector that
is viable, sustainable and meets the needs of communities in the context of
development and democratisation. The concept of community television is
simply a practical delivery mechanism of access to training, production,
distribution, exhibition and broadcast facilities to historically
disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Community television is the
ideal tool for development in relation to the broadcast sector because:
- Community television is by its nature a potentially self sustaining
medium. The IBA Act allows community broadcasters to generate income
in the form of advertising. Community television projects are viable
development projects in that they can generate income from the sale of
programmes, services and advertising space.
- Community television fits in directly with the government's
Reconstruction and Development Programme in that it is development
that is community driven and controlled. Community broadcasting goes a
step further than public broadcasting in that it recognises the
central role of communities, at the local level, in owning and
controlling the broadcast medium, unlocking resources, building
partnerships between role players, effective delivery mechanisms and
properly assessing diverse needs within communities. Community
television is the RDP of the broadcasting sector.
Redressing the imbalance of the legacy of apartheid has to be the first
consideration in any movement toward the development of community
television in South Africa. This will include human resource development
for the broadcasting sector as a whole in a way that promotes an upward
flow from communities to the public and private sector.
Community television stands to play an important role in a broader
developmental sense. The government's RDP recognises that information and
an informed population will be vital to the success of the programme.
Equally important will be people's ability to engage in dialogue about
community approaches and solutions to the fundamental challenges still
confronting the majority of South Africans. If people don't have effective
means to express their needs, they won't have effective control over the
development process. In a largely illiterate society, broadcasting has a
critical role to play in the development of a participatory democracy.
There is no guarantee that access to video and broadcast technologies
contributes to a participatory democracy. If community television is to
play this role effectively then we need to take the notion of access a step
further. South Africa's unique history has given South Africans a deep
sense of participation and ownership of the political process. Communities,
or at least sectors of communities, are well organised and coherent.
The social foundations for the success of community television have been
sown. Community television can contribute to this by enhancing communities'
ability to communicate with itself and the world.
Communities as well as NGOs and CBOs need to be trained as effective
communicators. The focus should be on the message and not simply on access
to the medium. Community participation must go beyond that of access or
In order to make this possible, community television needs to be developed
from the bottom up over a period of time through distinct developmental
phases. The first priority is to build production capacity in historically
marginalised communities. This will be achieved through the coordination of
a national training programme involving numerous training institutions
around the country and the building of Video Access Centres (VACs) in areas
where no such production capacity exists.
Training will be integrated with, and partially financed by, production.
OWN intends to leverage government funds through the offering of services
to the South African Communications Service, as well as seeking contract
work from the NGO sector. OWN is also building a strong relationship of
cooperation with the national public broadcaster where a mechanism for the
showing or commissioning of community originated programming is presently
When VACs build up sufficient capacity they will apply to the Independent
Broadcasting Authority for a community television licence to broadcast. The
network is presently debating various signal distribution options, looking
into ways in which community television stations can share programming
material over the long term. Serious attention is being given to the
consortium model. This model has already been through two test
transmissions in the Durban and Cape Town metropolitan areas. Satellites
are also being looked into as a future means of redistributing community
The objectives of the Open Window Network in community broadcasting
complement the efforts of community radio and print. Hence the organisation
works in close collaboration with fraternal organisations in these related
spheres through formal links and structures aimed at the establishment of
the National Community Media Forum. Together we are advancing a vision of
community broadcasting during a time in which the future telecommunications
policy and regulatory environment is being shaped. Now is the time to
enshrine the notion of community access and participation within the new
South Africa by linking it permanently to information and communication
Karen Thorne is General Secretary of the Open Window Network, PO Box 32022,
Braamfontein, 2107. Tel: (011) 403-2750