“Seventy percent of South Africans get their main source of news from radio, and it’s still considered the most trusted source in the country,” said Head of Regulatory Affairs, Julia Sham-Guild. 

By Sfundo Parakozov

The Wits Centre for Journalism (WCJ) joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at their Radio Park auditorium to celebrate World Radio Day on February 13, 2024, and launch its latest State of the Newsroom report – 100 Years of Radio Broadcasting. 

NAB’s Julia Sham-Guild in conversation with radio personality Thabiso Kotane during the State of the Newsroom launch at the SABC. Photo: Stuart Dickinson


Director of the WCJ, Dr. Dinesh Balliah and SABC radio general manager, Siphelele Sixaso extended a warm welcome to all media practitioners who gathered to commemorate the centenary milestone.

“Of course, we will go down memory lane to honour the legends that have graced our airways and dedicated their lives to the mission of informing, educating and entertaining the radio-loving listener,” said Sixaso.   

Published annually by the WCJ, the State of the Newsroom report looks at emerging issues in South Africa’s media landscape and fosters public discourse. The 2022 edition investigated the evolution of radio broadcasting in South Africa, featuring nine articles by experienced media professionals. 

SAfm radio broadcaster, Cathy Mohlahlana led the first session of the day, a discussion on public interest radio and it’s role in the democratic process. She was joined by the director of Radiocracy, Robin Sewlal and SABC’s head of advertising media strategy, Florence Kikine.  

Sewlal agreed with Kikine’s perspective that “radio is the original social media,” and a two-way stream where the broadcasters and audiences engage interactively, something which has sustained the medium through the years.

The first radio station in the country started broadcasting on December 18, 1923, while the early 1950’s marked the introduction of broadcasting in indigenous languages. Presently, South Africa has 40 commercial and public broadcast stations, along with 284 community stations. “The latter number is staggering, considering that community radio only launched as a sector less than 30 years ago,” wrote Balliah in the preface of the report.  

Despite the “staggering” growth, media consultant, Jayshree Pather added that community stations face challenges of being under-resourced and lacking sufficient funding which contributes to their underdevelopment. 



The idea of ‘content is king’ garnered different perspectives among panelists and audience members. Kikine said listeners increasingly influence what broadcasters talk about on air and warned against discussing topics that resonate with a select few instead of the broader community.  

Shaking his head, Sewlal said a topic should be discussed despite its narrow focus because it can be significant for some individuals or educate others. “Take care of the quality, and the quantity will take care of itself,” he said.  

A debate about podcasts versus traditional radio soon followed. Talk radio host, Morio Sanyane said people opt for podcasts because they have absolute freedom to discuss a variety of topics while broadcast practitioners are governed by codes and ethics of journalism which can curtail their scope.     

Radio broadcast student, Mzwakhe Radebe made his preference for podcasts clear, saying that they are more relatable and personal. “No offence but nobody listens to SABC in my class,” said Radebe. 

“When young people say that they are disillusioned and don’t feel accessed it means that the stories that we’re telling don’t speak to them, it’s not that the story is not important,” said Balliah. She further expressed the need to build a future for radio to ensure that it survives for another 100 years. However, this is a challenging task considering the loss of over a million listeners in 2022, according to the report.

Download the latest State of the Newsroom report here.