Today, the 13th February, South Africa joins the world in celebrating radio broadcasting, improving international cooperation among radio broadcasters and encouraging decision-makers to create and provide access to information through radio, including community radios. The day is a date proclaimed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), as an occasion to draw attention to the unique value of radio, which remains the medium to reach the widest audience and is currently taking up new technological forms and devices.
South Africa has undergone profound political and economic transformation over the last 17 years, resulting in new and strong political institutions that underpin democracy and a macro economic framework that encourages greater freedom and competition. It is therefore critical to appreciate the broader context, as we celebrate the World Radio Day. In SA, we are celebrating 75 years of SABC Radio, 19 years of Community Radio, 50 years of Radio Freedom and more than 19 years of commercial radio. Radio continues to play a significant role in helping people in all their diversity to communicate with each other in order to strengthen our democracy, promote a culture of human rights and enable all to participate fully in our economic growth and speed up transformation and development. Radio is even more important in SA, where the rate of illiteracy is reported to stand at around 18% of adults over 15 years old (about 9-million adults are not functionally literate). Radio reaches almost every corner of our country, rural, peri-urban and urban. Radio has informed, educated and entertained our citizens even during the apartheid days, Radio Freedom and community radio (through cassettes, campaigns, etc.) continued to empower citizens with alternative information. Information is knowledge and power.
Every citizen irrespective of their social class, (where ever located, rural or urban, poor or rich) should have access to a choice of a diverse range of media. Access to communication and information empowers citizens, facilitates participatory democracy, and assists in defending, advancing and deepening our democracy. We must also support and create an enabling environment for media development and diversity. Looking forward to many years of radio to come.