A critical assessment of the role and governance of Muslim community radio in South Africa : the case of Radio Al-Ansaar.
Mall, B. Ayesha.
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Community participation is a fundamental element of community radio. Therefore in countries where this form of radio exists, community participation is one of its most important licence criteria. It is no different in South Africa. Community radio in this country is a relatively young form of radio, just over a decade old, and is based on models in countries where community radio is a long established institution. Many of the South African community radios are faith-based stations. However, existing research on community participation in such radios are based mainly on Christian stations. The focus of this paper is on Muslim community radio. The study evaluated the extent of community participation in the ownership, management, programming and other aspects at Radio Al-Ansaar, a Muslim community radio based in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. As this radio serves a Muslim constituency characterised by ideological, racial and class divisions, the study sought to find out if optimal and meaningful community participation from all sectors of the community is actualised. Furthermore, given this diversity in the Muslim community, the paper examined if Al-Ansaar, through its programmes, induces transcendence of or accentuates differences through discourse of divergent ideologies, views and beliefs among Muslims. In addition to the examination of the level of community participation in Radio Al- Ansaar, the paper assesses the economic viability of the station. It highlights the significance of advertising as an important revenue stream and assesses the prospects for financial sustainability within the context of the hegemonic influence of vested mercantile interests. The evaluation of the Al-Ansaar project took place against the stipulations of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and against the backdrop of key Islamic precepts. Furthermore, in the analysis of the various elements mentioned, cognisance was taken of the perceptions of the varied individuals associated with the station.