What is community radio?

Community radio stations are community owned and operated entities that serve either localised geographic communities or communities of interest, such as minorities, religious groups and universities.

Community radio is unique because the stations are run by the communities themselves. They are owned and managed by the people they serve. The management is usually a small team of paid staff with the programming conducted by volunteers.

Unlike commercial stations, community stations are not allowed to run for profit. They must be established as voluntary associations, not-for-profits or trusts. The station’s constitution must say that any profit will be channeled into further developing the station. To ensure the stations are not run for profit they are usually subject to strict advertising controls. Commonly the regulator stipulates that advertising content ought to be capped to allow, for example, a maximum of five minutes per hour of programming.

There are no community radio stations in Swaziland. The Lubombo Community Media Group has been trying to establish a station since 1999, but is yet to be granted a fulltime license. The Information and Media Policy (2005) states that, “community stations shall be introduced in the Kingdom of Swaziland, licensed for an initially renewable period not exceeding 24 months”. MISA is urging government to fully implement this policy and issue at least four community radio licenses, one per region.

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