Reasons for the establishment of the Ubuntu Radio Station by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)

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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR WRITTEN REPLY

QUESTION NO: 2751 (NW3251E)

PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO: 33-2013 0F 18 OCTOBER 2013

Mr E H Eloff (DA) to ask the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation:

Question NW3251E relates to

(1) (a) What are the reasons for the establishment of the Ubuntu Radio station and (b) how will it differ from existing radio stations in South Africa;

(2) (a) how much will the establishment of the radio station cost, (b) what is the breakdown of these costs and (c) what is the estimated cost of running the radio station per annum;

(3) against which line item on her department’s budget will the money for the radio station be allocated;

(4) (a) why is the Ubuntu Radio station being operated under the auspices of her department and not under the auspices of the Department of Communications?

REPLY:

1. (a) South Africa’s first government-run, 24-hour online radio station is consistent with the active and prominent role that South Africa plays in global affairs.

The idea behind its conception was a need to create a platform for exchange of views and opinions by key players who contribute to shaping South Africa’s Foreign Policy. These would include government institutions, the diplomatic community, civil society, academia, media and other role-players in the field of international relations.

South Africa’s Foreign Policy has been consistently in the spotlight since the country became  a member of various global and strategic formations such as the UN Security Council; the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) grouping; the India, Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) initiative; and the G20. 

In addition, South Africa’s continuous role and engagement in the activities of the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) have positioned South Africa firmly as a country with formidable contributions to make in the regional and global political scene.

Due to South Africa’s increased role and mandate in the international arena, it is important that immediate and accessible platforms are used to communicate South Africa’s Foreign Policy and to promote Brand South Africa domestically and abroad. Ubuntu Radio aims to create a fair and balanced representation of the work of the Department and Government as a whole, and to clearly and consistently present the policies and decisions of the South African Government. 

In essence, Ubuntu Radio is a reaffirmation of the South African Government’s continuous commitment to ensuring that its work and contributions in global politics are widely understood, recognized, appreciated, and most fundamentally, located within the context of the country’s Foreign Policy.

(b) In choosing an internet-based radio station over a mainstream radio station, DIRCO was inspired by the results of extensive research conducted on the effectiveness, influence and listenership of internet-based radio stations throughout the world. 

Research indicates that internet-based radio has gained momentum over the past 10 years, and its benefits are visible.  

In a study released on 25 September 2013, Edison Media Research indicated that over half of the American online population (53%) listened to internet radio citing “on-demand services”, “availability of device” and “convenience” as reasons for utilising the medium.  

South Africans are no different from the rest of the world and are also embracing digital technology to communicate in ways that could never have been imagined just a few years ago. 

In February this year, the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) released its findings from a survey conducted on South Africa’s internet-using population. The survey found that the majority of internet users used the platform mainly for email (95%), followed by web browsing (84%) and social networking (78%), with respondents citing their home as their preferred location to access the internet. In terms of users who access the internet via their mobile phones, three out of four said they did so every day. When users were asked the question: “Does the internet displace other media?” users responded with a resounding “Yes”.

Researchers at World Wide Worx said in their Internet Access in South Africa 2012 study that broadband access in South Africa more than doubled as mobile operators slashed the cost of data and network roll-outs accelerated.  

In the annual South Africa & SADC Media Facts 2013, Optimum Media Direction (OMD) CEO Josh Dovey stated that the digital platform will eventually become the portal for all media consumption and, as has always been the case with media of any kind, content is what will drive success and attract the consumer. OMD has the largest media network in Africa with 10 registered offices covering 30 markets on the African continent. 

It is clear that internet radio is here to stay, bringing with it endless variety, more commercial stations, including public/government stations.

2. (a) Online broadcasting is the cheapest or most affordable format in the world. DIRCO has always had existing infrastructure for broadcast. A fully fledged and equipped studio. That means little costs were incurred in the establishment. (b) R1.2 Million was spent on upgrading the equipment and training officials in preparation to launch Ubuntu radio and go on air. (c)An estimated R1 million will be set aside annually for running costs and maintenance.

3. The budget is with Branch Public Diplomacy whose mandate is to communicate our foreign policy to domestic and international audiences. The station is a platform we have initiated to realize that objective.

4. DIRCO has a responsibility to communicate the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy. Like other departments we review our communication strategy regularly and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. In the context of a changing communications landscape where social media and online platforms are gaining momentum, we thought it was a prudent step to establish this platform. The DOC has its own communications machinery to popularize its mandate and work. It does not and cannot be expected to shoulder the responsibility to communicate DIRCO’s work. Ubuntu radio has signed an MoU with the SABC’s Channel Africa to exchange content and broaden the reach and accessibility of our messages.

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