An experiment of community television in new South Africa
06 / 1995
Television in South Africa is changing drastically and in the process a new participatory TV culture is emerging. These new directions include the introduction of public access television which will allow the public to not only watch TV but also to make it. New opportunities for community media will be highlighted at the Visual Voice Confest ’95 to be hosted in June by the Centre for Cultural and Media Studies at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa. During this event, the Greater Durban Television (GDTV)will operate what could probably be the first test transmission of community TV in South Africa.
The planned experimental broadcast of GDTV marks the culmination of years of struggle by numerous oppositional community groups to democratise the airwaves. It was a bleak period dominated by an apartheid regime which controlled the media with an iron fist and restricted television to a virtual propaganda station for government ideology. One of the major agitators for the introduction of public access television in South Africa is the community based Film and Allied Workers Organisation (FAWO)which began developing community television during the early years of its work in restructuring the film and broadcasting industries.
FAWO acts as the central facilitating body in the development of a Community Television Network in South Africa through a process of consultation and networking. A basis of support and cooperation has also been established with international community television structures. This community networking has enabled FAWO, in the role of joint-convener of the GDTV test broadcast, to bring considerable grassroots support to the volunteer groups participating in this pioneering attempt at community access television.
The aim of the experimental broadcast is to provide a technical model for a public access station, as well as to make people in the Greater Durban area aware of the potentials of such media. The organisers
hope this will eventually lead to the establishment of a public access television station in Durban. Negotiations are underway with the Independent Broadcasting Authority for the granting of what is termed a "special events short-term licence" for the experimental broadcast.
The experimental broadcast is being run on an entirely voluntary basis with a small amount of funding from the convening organisations. The equipment required for the ground breaking
transmission has been sponsored by various video companies, the university and community based organisations. The GDTV conveners believe that community access media have a vital role to play in "Giving Voice to the Voiceless" and in aiding the government’s National Unity Reconstruction and Development Programme.
Lumko Mtimde, of the National Community Radio Forum, has stated that: "Our communities have been deprived of a fundamental right to education, to talk to each other and listen to the truth... Community radio is a community voice. It can begin to address imbalances through facilitating debates and discussions, linking them up with other community radio stations, assessing such debates and discussions at the regional level and networking them nationally. This will ensure upward mobility instead of downward mobility of important community needs and demands... community radio can be used to develop a culture of human rights at the grassroots level and can be a valuable medium for informal education." These objectives are in line with the aims of the broader spectrum of community access media and effectively describle what GDTV sees as the role of community television in society.
Translated into French and Spanish.
Mikhail Peppas is the coordinator of the Visual Voice Confest ’95and producer of the Greater Durban Television experimental test transmission.
Write: Centre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal, King George V Avenue, Durban 4001, South Africa
Tel.: (27 31)260 2505
Fax: (27 31)260 2214. Email: email@example.com
Artículos y dossiers
Videazimut, Organizing for Democratic Media in. Clips, 1995 (Canada), 8
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