Children’s Radio Foundation wins the African Digital Media Award | Children's Radio Foundation

We use radio to amplify youth voices across Africa, giving them the skills and tools to speak about their lives

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Linda Daniels (centre)

The Children’s Radio Foundation is thrilled to announce that our WhatsApp radio integration initiative with the Media Development Investment Fund won the African Digital Media Award for Best Innovation to Engage Youth Audiences!

On the 23rd of November 2018, Linda Daniels, the project manager of our WhatsApp radio integration initiative, accepted the African Digital Media Award for Best Innovation to Engage Youth Audiences on behalf of the Children’s Radio Foundation. Organised in Johannesburg by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the African Digital Media Awards is reputed to be “the most prestigious competition in the industry for publishers to benchmark their digital offerings,” and receiving it gives recognition to the Children’s Radio Foundation’s investment as an organisation in community radio, and in particular our efforts in finding innovative ways to capacitate this under-resourced sector that plays such a vital role in communities across Africa.

The main idea behind our WhatsApp Integration project was to use easily accessible technology to usher our pilot sites into the digital age, bringing them up to speed with their commercial broadcasting peers. At the Bulungula community radio station in the Eastern Cape, one of the three participating pilot sites in our year long project, Mzuzile Mhlola, or DJ Mzu, as he became known, was the station’s only presenter and staff member, producing daily broadcasts of news and entertainment, using only solar power and basic broadcasting equipment. His show became so popular in the community, it inspired local youth to try their hand at radio and a few stepped up to the challenge by volunteering their time and voices to Bulungula community radio. The station quickly stood out as a beacon of information and connection for residents in the remote rural setting in the Eastern Cape.

Mhlola set up the Bulungula community radio WhatsApp group in January 2018 to encourage conversation among listeners. The group has since become the go-to place for opportunities and for residents to talk to each other or to find information about local events. To date, the Bulungula community radio WhatsApp group has 67 active members. The station’s WhatsApp broadcast list has 92 members.

In a unique innovation that merged WhatsApp and radio, Mhlola started using an old cellphone to record his shows and then converted the audio into MP3 files which he posted directly to the Bulungula community radio WhatsApp group.

“We took our lead from our youth reporters who showed us how they were already using technology and applied their learnings to a new model of WhatsApp integration at community radio stations that we designed,” explains Linda. For example, at our WhatsApp Integration Model training workshops, Mhlola and the station’s youth reporters were trained in radio production techniques, including the use of recording equipment; radio storytelling formats, such as interviews and vox pops; and WhatsApp formats, such as designing WhatsApp polls and WhatsApp newsletters.

“This model, we hope, will continue to increase youth participation on air, giving voice to our country’s young majority to talk about issues that matter most to them.”

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