“Community media struggles…to acquire the advertising…cake due to the industries’ different understanding of what community media is,” complains Lumko Mtimde, the CEO of Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).
“The problem is that in the years of apartheid, the industry did not understand the country. The market was structured in a manner that served a certain part of SA community instead of serving the SA community at large.”
According to the SA Research Foundation (SAARF), community radio commands 25% of the total radio audience in SA. This translates to 34 million people , but community radio stations only get 6.5% of the total advertising revenue.
“From a business point of view, this does not tally. How can you have so many listeners and don’t get buyers to put their products in your media? When interrogating that, it clearly became obvious that it is because some of the people who are working in this industry do not understand it,” lashes Mtimde.
“For example they don’t know Soweto, they don’t know Katlehong and they also don’t know people living in those areas. Therefore, it would not make sense to them that the communities there can also buy the same products as the communities where they come from.”
As a way to deal with the challenges facing community and small commercial media, MDDA has come up with new strategies. These include partnering with the industry stakeholders to come up with solutions to make sure that community media is able to sustain itself.
“We basically have adopted an approach of working with different stakeholders to support our mandate. The Advertising Media Association of South Africa (AMASA) is one such stakeholder,” says Mtimde.
“Having understood that we do not want the media that we support to be perpetually dependent on MDDA funding, we have engaged with the industry to say we need to create an enabling environment for everyone to have access to the advertising cake as we believe that this will promote media diversity and therefore be good for the SA democracy.”
Prior to the exclusive interview with Mtimde, Transform SA attended a media debate held in Sandton, North of Johannesburg hosted by AMASA and MDDA. They encourage established commercial companies to invest in community media by advertising in community radio station platforms.
“We were able to work together to assist in the area of skills development for the sector that we support This is because one needs to appreciate the importance of advertising and marketing in order to run a good media product. So, we partnered with AMASA to conduct training programs… hoping to create an enabling environment from the advertising industry to support community media,”
Mtimde says, even with the engagement and proposals of this plan to major media buyers, most of them are still sceptical about advertising with community and small commercial media.
“There were tendencies that assumed that automatically the community and small commercial media are not run professionally. Therefore it will not be easy for the clients to prove that their product has been marketed in the communities through that media,” he says.
Currently MDDA is at the final stages of implementing a professionalized online system that will be able to produce accurate community media reports from which clients can prove indeed their adverts have been played at such date and time.
This system will be designed in such a way that advertisers will also be able to book their campaigns based on the statistics they find.
“We are busy trying to design a system to produce reports by pressing of a button. This information will also be useful for communications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), the advertising industry, the government and everyone,” says Mtimde.
Asked if there were any plans to incorporate this as a policy to make sure advertisers do market their products through community media, Mtimde said:
“There is no plan to create a law that will force people to advertise through community media. It should come from the freewill of the buyer because it makes business sense.”
Since its official establishment MDDA has funded different types of community and small commercial media. It is the force behind publications such as Genuine Magazine, Eastern Cape Woman, Alex Pioneer, Rainbow News, Seipone, Puisano, Bushbuckridge News, Vukani FM, Radio Mafisa, Africa Ignite, Kurara FM, Motheo FM, Tshwane CTV and a lot more.
MDDA is still not content with the progress of media diversity in SA. “Certainly there is progress but it is not yet at the level which we want it to be. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” says Mtimde.
“The government is committed to use some of its ad spend on community and small commercial media to target the previously advantaged communities for a number of government services, opportunities and development purposes.
It only makes sense that its messages reach out to the people that it is intended for. If community media serves those people then government messages should be sold through that media,” says Mtimde.
To get funding from MDDA, community and small commercial media must be able to convince MDDA that their media will add value to the media diversity agenda.
Community and small commercial media must also be a good cooperate citizen. Must have tax clearance certificate and prove to have systems to manage the funds.
Written by: Ntsako Mbokota