DESPITE the media industry going through tough times, with advertising spend declining 5 percent year on year, the broadcasting regulator has received 38 applications for new commercial radio licences in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, writes Thabiso Mochiko in Business Report.

The list includes broadcasting heavyweights, popular radio disc jockeys Thato "DJ Fresh" Sikwane, Sbusiso "DJ Sbu" Leope and businessman Kenny Setzin, the former director of New Africa Investments Limited, through his investment company Direng Investments. Given Mkhari's MSG Afrika is said to be another applicant.

Political organisations such as Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, and the usual suspects Kagiso Media and Primedia, are also among the consortiums applying for licences.

Last year the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) invited interested parties to bid for a total of three licences in those provinces.

Gauteng will be highly contested this is the last remaining licence in the province. Gauteng-based regional radio stations include KayaFM, YFM, and 702 Talk Radio.

Many of the applicants have applied for licences in all three provinces and those that are positioning themselves for Gauteng have proposed a talk radio format, arguing that the music radio station market is saturated.

This had triggered a call to the government to migrate the radio broadcasting signal from analogue to digital to create space for more stations, an anonymous applicant said.

Avhasei Mukoma, a lawyer and a broadcasting, competition and regulatory policy analyst, said whoever won in Gauteng would have to come up with innovative programmes.

"There is saturation in the music format, there is not much difference in the programming of those radio stations," he said.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business report's website.