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Public participation in the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) radio stations: a case study of Ukhozi FM and SAfm.

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Radio has always and still remail one of the most useful, available, and affordable medium. Radio has remained relevant and continue to build communities through its programming. This is not different from the South African public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Cooperation (SABC). The study investigates the public participation within the SABC radio stations using Sithakela Isizwe on Ukhozi FM and The View Point on SAfm as a case study. One of the roles of the media, especially a public service broadcaster such as the SABC, is to create and promote a platform for fair public engagement. It is on this platform that citizens behave as a public body, and are able to engage with one another freely, that is, with the of freedom of assembling together as a collective, associating themselves with other people or social groups and the freedom to express their opinions about matters of general interest. It is for that reason that the study explores the public participation in SABC using the above-mentioned shows as a case study, focusing on the extent in which the shows allow public participation, how it allow public participation and the extent in which the public, the radio presenters and producers influence programming of the shows. The South African based study is located in Durban and Johannesburg because Ukhozi FM and SAfm are located in Durban and Johannesburg. This qualitative study employs a content and thematic analysis to collect and analyse the data collected through in-depth interviews of the radio presenters and producers and through collecting buying the data from the SABC. The researcher used a purposive sampling to sample both the respondents in the study and the month, April 2019, for recording of both shows. The study employed the public sphere theory to make sense of the study. Jürgen Habermas ‘s defines the public sphere as a realm within society in which people can bring forth ideas which can be accessible to many people. The theory helped in understanding the realm established by the shows and to evaluate the type of public sphere. The study, through the help of the public sphere theory, revealed that the two shows formed a virtual public sphere. The study also revealed that there is public participation within the SABC radio stations particularly the shows in question in this study and have formed not only a virtual public realm, but they do allow a physical public sphere which was originally argued by Habermas when he observed the bourgeois society. The radio stations have not only created a virtual public platform, where the public engaged through social media and through traditional ways of participation such as call-ins, but the public has an influence, to a certain extent, toward the programming of the shows through public participation. The data also revealed that the radio presenters, producers, and the radio management have an influence not only in programming, but they also have influence on who gets to participate either as a guest or from the public. This happens when they decide who to participate as a guest during the planning of the show and it happens when they choose whose WhatsApp voice note to play on air, which Tweet to read, whose comment to read from Facebook and whose call to answer. The study, like many radio audience, public service broadcasting and radio public participation studies, pointed out that the virtual public sphere created by radio such as the SABC radio stations needs to constantly check and balanced between self-regulation and censorship. It also revealed that social media and the internet has not killed radio but it has enhanced the virtual public sphere.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.