Broadcasting in South Africa is regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which issues broadcast licenses; ensures service and access; monitors the industry and deals with disputes; controls and manages the frequency spectrum; and protects consumers from unfair business practices.
Types of licences
In the past 10 years, 94 community radio broadcasting licenses and 10 commercial licenses have been awarded in South Africa.
Each radio station is aimed at a specific market which means that there are only a certain number of consumers it can reach with its advertising. A station which reaches a larger consumer audience can charge more for its advertising rates.
In South Africa there are three types of radio licences:
- PBS (Public broadcasting)
“It isn’t too difficult to get a community broadcast license, but the station has to be of interest to a specific community broadcasting information specific to a community like religion,” says Neil Johnson, Kaya FM programme manager.
How to apply for a licence
This year the Electronic Communications Act changed regarding frequency regulations.
“The Act now makes allowance to create your own frequency. Once you have the frequency you can apply for the license. As long as the application fits into a community of interest i.e. religion or has the right geographic footprint, a community license will be granted”, says Cathy.
“The cost to submit an application is R3000 which is non-refundable and you have to submit 26 copies to ICASA. In real terms the application costs a lot more because of the research and work required to complete the application. If you have never been in radio you have to learn the process and completing the application forces you to learn the process.”
In order to broadcast music it’s necessary to register with the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO).
It was established to protect the intellectual property of composers and authors, as well as to ensure that composers and authors are adequately remunerated both locally and internationally for music usage.
The cost of music usage is based on the income of the radio station.
Where to source radio station equipment
“Before buying radio broadcast equipment first apply for a broadcast licence which you can obtain through ICASA.
The cost of equipment to set up a fully functioning radio station costs between R450 000 and R1.5million.
At the moment there is no available frequency in the Johannesburg area, but things might change when the digital system replaces the analogue system”, says Russel Jones, Systems Engineer for BNI.
Here are some of South Africa’s most established suppliers:
BNI has 21 years of technology experience in Africa, and over 100 years of accumulated experience in the broadcast and telecommunication industry. They offer consultation services and work closely with clients in order to meet their studio and transmission requirements.
They also assist clients with licensing and regulatory obligations, geographical surveys, propagation surveys, and prediction and interference studies. “For example when you set up a radio station you have to select a high site in order to get a signal, this is where our expertise fits in”, advises Jones.
Enhanced Media Systems Africa are distributors of essential products for the music, studio and broadcast markets. They specialise in broadcast and recording systems and offer a comprehensive range of broadcast solutions – from a community based radio station to network radio and TV environments.
Sound Fusion has 25 years accumulated research, development and manufacturing of professional broadcast equipment. Most of the equipment is made in South Africa. They offer the sale and installation of radio equipment.
SoundFusion also offer training courses which are designed to give learners an understanding of the professional audio environment and to provide them with sufficient skills to play a useful role working in the live sound, recording or radio studio industries.
Commercial Radio Stations
There are a number of commercial radio licenses which will be available up until the end of September 2009.
For example, applications for Capital Radio’s broadcasting license are open until 30 September. In order to get a commercial license, you have to apply to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
According to a recent Bizcommunity report, “The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa invites interested parties to apply for the Capital Radio commercial broadcasting license to serve the eastern coastline of KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.”
Costs of set-up
The Department of Communications has put a price tag of R6 million to be paid by the successful broadcasting license applicant. The license is valid for 6 years from the date of issue. This gives a very good indication of the cost of equipment when setting up a commercial radio station.
“However, one cannot buy equipment to start a radio station until a license has been granted. In South Africa licenses are very hard to come by as there is so little frequency left,” says Cathy Kaler, director of ChaiFM 101.9 which was granted a community broadcasting license in 2007 and began broadcasting at the end of 2008.
There are fixed expenses to cover such as equipment, technical assistance and rent. A community station such as ChaiFM 101.9 runs with a volunteer staff. “Community buy-in was crucial to our success. We do our own advertising which has been incredibly useful as we understand first-hand what works and what doesn’t.”
Community radio stations
There are an estimated 10-million radio sets in South Africa, with listeners many times that number. The country now has over 90 community stations, who broadcast in many different languages. Examples of Community radio stations are:
- 906 FM Vaal Radio
- Bay FM
- Bush Radio
- Campus Radio
How to qualify as a community radio station
To qualify as a community radio station the business has to be registered as a Section 21 company or as a Trust.
How do you reserve and AM or FM frequency?
The best way to find out which frequencies are available is to contact ICASA.
Broadcasting in South Africa is regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which issues broadcast licences for AM, FM and MW. This body controls and manages the frequency spectrum.
To reserve a frequency
“At the current time there are no FM or AM frequencies available in the Gauteng area, says Tshifularo Sigwavhulimu”, Radio Frequency Specialist at ICASA.
But there is good news. ICASA will shortly be making available a number of AM frequencies to anyone, meaning commercial or community stations, this year. “At the moment we are not sure when we will be issuing invitations to apply for licences, but it will be during 2010,” explains Sigwavhulimu.
In order to receive notification that applications must be submitted email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible so that you can be notified via email to submit your application in good time.
Finding a frequency
During 2009 the Electronic Communications Act changed regarding frequency regulations regarding community licences.
“The Act now makes allowance to create your own frequency. Once you have the frequency you can apply for the licence. As long as the application fits into a community of interest i.e. religion or has the right geographic footprint, a community licence will be granted”, says Cathy Kaler, director of ChaiFM 101.9.
How does a radio station generate revenue?
There are three ways that a radio station can earn revenue.
Radio stations earn most of their revenue through advertising. Most stations earn from the 30 second spots which are aired throughout the broadcast.
The second form of revenue is earned through non- traditional methods which include:
Lastly, radio stations can earn revenue through ad sales on digital platforms such Internet broadcasting through streaming audio and also the station’s own Internet website, e-mailers and SMS campaigns.
Did you know?
In the US during 2003, revenue from “online streaming music radio” was $49 million. By 2006, that figure rose to $500 million. In 2007 a survey of 3 000 Americans (released by Consultancy Bridge Ratings & Research) showed that 19% of U.S. consumers 12 and older listen to Web-based radio stations.
This means that there are around 57 million weekly listeners of Internet radio programmes. One in seven aged 25-54 listen to online radio each week and more people listen to online radio than to satellite radio, high-definition radio, podcasts, or cell-phone-based radio according to Wikipedia.
Where to find internet radio stations
The wonderful thing about Internet radio services are that they are usually accessible from anywhere in the world – for example, one could listen to an Australian station from Europe or America.
Some major networks like Clear Channel in the US and Chrysalis in the UK restrict listening to smaller areas because of music licensing and advertising concerns.
The most common way to distribute Internet radio is via streaming technology.
The cheapest way to start a radio station is to broadcast through the internet.
If you want to start your own radio station and don’t have much capital, it isn’t too difficult using the Internet. You need a computer with a large hard drive, some spare dedicated bandwidth, and a good sized collection of music.
There are sites such as Poromenos, Shoutcast or TechCrunch which offer tutorials on setting up internet radio streaming. Depending on your level of technical expertise and the tools available to you, you can either setup your own server, or find a hosting solution from a third party.
It’s quite possible to start an Internet-based Radio station that operates for the purpose of profit and generating re
How to locate internet radio stations in South Africa
Use a specialised search engine to track Internet streamed radio stations. One such tool is Streamfinder.com. This search engine has been running since 2005 and its main aim is to assist users in finding streaming internet radio stations from all over the world while at the same time assisting these radio stations in promoting their names amongst potential listeners.
By visiting www.streamfinder.com you can use their search bar to find an internet radio station by typing in a specific keyword, country, genre or even artist name if you know it. The website will them provide you with a number of listings that matched your search.
By clicking on the various options you will be taken to a page that will provide you with a brief description of the station and what you can expect as a listener. If you would like to listen you can click on the image of their website which will take you to their site so that you can begin streamlining and listening to your favourite station.
A few examples of South African internet radio stations include:
1. Student Radio.
This is site promotes a number of student radio stations such as TuksFM and UCT Radio and ensures that all students are catered to with regards to the latest local and international music right from their computers. Their website also provides listeners with event and gig guides as well as celebrity news from around the world. www.studentradio.co.za
2. Rhythm 100 Radio.
This urban radio station broadcasts throughout the day and night and brings African, hip hop and R&B music to their listeners. www.rhythm100radio.com
3. Radio Veritas.
This online streaming station caters to catholic listeners from all over the country. Their shows are broadcasted on a daily basis, well into the evening. www.radioveritas.co.za
4. Sound Republic Web Radio.
Derek the Bandit is the creator of this website which offers a variety of music options including a 24/7 streamlining radio station and a variety of podcasts. www.soundrepublic.co.za
For more information
Unesco has released a free downloadable book which goes into the operational detail of starting your own community radio station. Topics covered in this book: Facilities, management, installation of equipment, financing and securing the broadcast license.