The 13th of February, is a day where South Africa joins the world in celebrating radio broadcast, to improve international cooperation among radio broadcasters and encourage 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 Organization (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.
The last 19 years in South Africa have had profound transformational changes in the radio industry, resulting in a new diverse industry that underpin nation building and democracy, and a three-tier framework that encourages more voices, more views, greater freedom of the airwaves and fair competition. That is the South African broader context of the celebration of the World Radio Day; we have good reasons to join the World. Further, we are celebrating 76 years of SABC Radio, 20 years of Community Radio, 51 years of Radio Freedom, more than 20 years of commercial radio, 20 years of the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) and 10 years of the MDDA.
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.