Durban-based tech company, immedia, wants to put power back into the hands of the people by encouraging the establishment of community radio stations and citizen journalism.
Public service broadcasting in South Africa has long been governed by the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC), characterized by regulated information and news announcements – it is often claimed.
To combat this, Durban-based tech company, immedia, wants to put power back into the hands of the people by encouraging the establishment of community radio stations and citizen journalism.
The company has invested R10-million to help African media entrepreneurs build sustainable community radio by using Fabrik, a set of cloud-enabled digital tools that empower media entities to live-stream shows, grow and engage with audiences around the world, and benefit financially by monetising their audiences.
The 25-year-old company, which has the backing of Microsoft and the Industrial Development Corporation, has been developing their Fabrik technology since 2017. Fabrik allows media entrepreneurs to upend the traditional notion of “we broadcast and you receive”, by creating a feedback loop that directly helps the stations and listeners to leapfrog old technology, become citizen journalists, and find their strategic space in a digitally transformed world.
In fact, Fabrik It is already being used by 15 commercial clients, including state radio stations Gagasi FM, Smile 90.4FM and YFM.
As part of its Digital Leap programme, immedia will be giving qualifying media entrepreneurs across Africa access to its platform for free for a year. This includes consultation, training and support to help monetize the technology, cumulatively valued at R10 million.
Phil Molefe, a veteran of broadcast radio in South Africa, and Fabrik’s Head of Business Development & Strategy, says the programme was key to the company’s vision to spearhead media transformation. He says the uptake of Fabrik by energetic entrepreneurs at community radio stations showed how empowering the suite of digital tools is. “It enables them to deepen their relationship with their audience and monetise it sustainably because the quality of their engagement with listeners is meaningful.”
Building stable, sustainable community radio across Africa
Molefe points out that while community media is often under-resourced and struggles to retain skills, the company’s case studies have shown that it is more than possible for them to thrive – and that the Digital Leap programme is the kind of opportunity they need – and can succeed on. Fabrik helps media entrepreneurs by solving key challenges for them, including digital infrastructure and setup.
Fabrik has a range of users, and about 60% of their listeners have an opt-in relationship with their broadcasters. By building and growing owned communities, stations then stand to benefit financially by serving highly relevant ads to their digital listeners. In addition, where sales conversions on social media are around 2%, Fabrik users enjoy 8%.
According to Tamie Mbombo, head of Marketing and PR at Izwi loMzansi, one of the largest community radio stations in South Africa, says that the platform has revolutionised the station’s engagement with its listeners, and has led the digital charge with featured podcasts and integrated advertising campaigns on the Izwi mobile app. “Community media’s aim is to provide trusted information and expression, and Fabrik has helped do that,” he says.
According to Molefe, the take up by media entrepreneurs, either regarded as ‘on the fringes’ or as outliers, is the best showcase for Fabrik. “They are doing what they do because nobody told them they couldn’t – and it is proving to be a great leveller. We’ve seen how powerful this platform is in the community media space, which is why we are looking at boosting the rate of transformation,” he says.