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Event Reports

From Taxi Radio to Solar Radio: Challenges and Opportunities for Africa’s Most Important Medium

Report on the Joburg Radio Days 2013 by Tanja Schreiner

“It was a real career highlight to get to come to South Africa and speak at the conference,” Sam Cavanagh from Southern Cross Austere in Australia reported after the fourth edition of Joburg Radio Days that was held from July 3 – 5, 2013 at the Wits Club at Wits University. As before, the conference aimed to bring together people from public, community and commercial radio to discuss issues of common concern. With some 160 delegates from 12 countries attending, feedback throughout was very positive.

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Radio - Africa’s Most Important Medium

As it reaches all parts of the population – from the illiterate to academics - radio is the most popular media on the African continent – with the largest audience. Therefore, the further development of radio is one of KAS Media Africa’s top project priorities. Being Africa’s leading conference on radio, Joburg Radio Days aims to support local as well as international co-operations and does facilitate input and experts not only from Africa, but also Europe and Australia. The conference is held annually and organised by the Wits Radio Academy, with on-going support from KAS Media Africa.

Programme Highlights

The programme included panel discussions as well as workshop sessions. Primarily the focus was on mainstream radio, public service and community radio. Overall the speakers represented an excellent range, with some top local names and fascinating international speakers. Among them was award winning radio producer Sam Cavanagh, from Australia’s hit comedy show Hamish and Andy, the highest-rating radio series in Australian history. Another highly interesting presentation was given by Zenzele Ndebele from Radio Dialogue a community radio station in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He demonstrated the solar radio and torch which he was arrested for by police in March 2013, after the government had “banned” radios capable of receiving shortwave broadcasts from outside the country.

A wide range of topics around the current radio landscape on the continent was discussed, such as technological developments, radio in conflict zones and the challenges and opportunities of online and social media. The audience was enlightened by Power FM’s Station Manager, Ferdinand Mabalane’s first-hand experience of launching a new talk station just a few weeks prior to the conference, in an already saturated market. Plus, community radio came to the fore with the launch of “The Healthy Community Radio Station”, a new booklet produced by the Wits Radio Academy together with OSISA. Certainly a conference highlight was online radio station The Taxi, founder and multi award winning performer, Soli Philander’s passionate and spirited input during the session on Internet Pioneers.

Twitter, Broadcasts and Productive Discussions

The conference also attracted some media interest. Ashraf Garda, from SAFM, attended on Wednesday and recorded a few interviews for later broadcast. The conference hashtag: #jhbradiodays trended on Twitter and a team of students covered the conference through video, photographs, text reports and live tweeting. For the first time, VoW 90.5 (Voice of Wits) set up an OB point outside the venue and broadcast live every lunchtime, which drew considerable interest from delegates.

Very Positive Feedback

Fascinating international speakers, intensive discussions and a wide range of interesting topics made this year’s Joburg Radio Days a great event that brought together people from different continents, working in public, community and commercial radio. Feedback on the programme, the topics and the speakers was throughout very positive. “The last few days have really expanded my mind, meeting amazing people in remarkable circumstances, and hearing about different approaches to some of the universal issues of people who make radio, as well as the unique experiences of running a radio station in a conflict zone, for example,” James O’Brien from ABC Australia summed up his impressions on his homepage.

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Christoph Plate

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Director Media Programme Southeast Europe +359 2 942-4971 +359 2 94249-79


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