The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Journalism programme hosted the Radiocracy Roundtable, which was addressed by the renowned radio production expert, Dave Hotchkiss last Thursday, 15 August 2019 at City Campus in Durban.
Hotchkiss worked on the development and design of communication equipment for many years. In parallel with this, he became involved in media content as a radio programme producer and presenter, producing radio programmes and AV’s in the 1980’s / 1990’s.
In Pietermaritzburg he headed up the group that was awarded the first one-year Community Radio station licence in 1995 (Radio Maritzburg). He managed the station for its first few years. He was subsequently involved in the setting up of a number of other Community Radio stations.
As the General Manager of the Association of Christian Broadcasters (now the ACM), between 2003 and 2012, he facilitated training in various Christian radio stations. In 2012 he moved to Commercial Radio, and did much of the application process and the set-up and was the technical manager for the Vuma 103 FM radio station until 2014.
He spoke about the past and future of community radio focusing on the South African context. He traced the history of community radio in South Africa back to 1994 when Radio Maritzburg was the first community radio station to be granted a broadcasting licence, Hotchkiss was one of the founding members of Radio Maritzburg.
He said the landscape and policy framework for community radio has changed drastically over the past 25 years. “If you consider that 25 years ago there was no licenced community radio station, and today we have over 200 licensed community radio stations, it shows that there has be a considerable growth in this sector,” said Hotchkiss.
Hotchkiss argued that whilst most people believe that the biggest hurdle for establishing a community radio station was obtaining a broadcasting licence, but he believes that the first major challenge is surviving the first full year of broadcasting. “It is very expensive to run a community radio station, and most people underestimate the monthly cost of running a community radio station,” he said.
He also spoke about the 2019 new regulations and the lifting of the ICASA moratorium. The new regulation aims to align regulations on community broadcasting, improve governance through development of policies on governance, management, operations and programming. They also seek to ensure that community broadcasters promote and broadcast in languages used in the communities where stations are based, ensure that community broadcasters develop policies on community participation and ownership and enforce clear financial reporting to ensure that profits are ploughed back into the station/community.
He told journalism students that it was important for them to understand the four main streams of incoming for community radio stations, which includes commercial advertising, government funding, partnerships with NGOs and individual donors.
Hotchkiss highlighted that in order to sustain the future of community radio, it is important to build firm governance foundation, focusing on excellence by investing in training and sound administration. “It is also important to diversify your financial income as a community radio station, and to focus on your community,” he added.
He added that he believes that community radio stations have a big role to play in deepening community participation in our democracy.
Journalism programme lecturer, Advocate Robin Sewlal thanked Hotchkiss for imparting his extensive knowledge on community radio and radio in general to journalism students. He also urged students to use this knowledge effectively in their careers, by looking beyond the idea of being employed in the media but consider establishing their own media platforms.
Pictured: Dave Hotchkiss (far left) and Advocate Robin Sewlal (far right) with journalism students that won the community radio competition receiving their gifts.