Plain and simple, it’s one frequency – all day, every day, Cape Metropolitan area with a five times more powerful signal. Voice of the Cape has come alive – at last.
The dream deferred now becomes the dream fulfilled. No longer will listener figures be compromised because of a shared frequency. The old challenges are gone, but new ones loom.
Will Radio 786 – who shared 100.4 FM with VOC – be able to step up to a 24-hour format? How will advertisers and sponsors, the lifeblood of both stations, see the new situation?
How will listeners react to a new landscape of choice?
Not only will there be two Muslim stations side-by-side, but hugely competitive challenges will loom, challenges such as new broadcasters, and established ones, all vying for the same market.
And what about cyberspace and the social media, the expanding digital platform favoured by the youth – where will they fit in? Multi-media is the vehicle of the future, and the web-site – clocking up millions of page hits annually – surely needs to venture into more substantial podcasting with 91.3 FM increasing volume.
But by successfully getting a single broadcast signal, VOC has finally broken the frustrating bureaucratic fetters of a shared frequency. This was a situation brought on by the old Independent Broadcasting Association, the IBA, in 1995 due to a shortage of FM frequencies, and the need for political compromise in an infant democracy.
The IBA (which later became ICASA) awarded a shared licence because the community could not agree on one radio station, as it requested, in 1995.
The Muslim Broadcasting Corporation representing 12 magisterial districts (with the MJC as a primary applicant), the Islamic Unity Convention and the original 786 (masjid ul-Quds in Gatesville) had all lodged licence applications.
After talks mooted by the IBA, the Muslim Broadcasting Corporation and Gatesville decided to join forces, but not the IUC – hence the birth of two stations.
Having been involved in setting up VOC, and training news staff when it went on air permanently in September 1995, I feel that the shared frequency did give the community two different voices – at the time more a blessing, I think, than a curse.
But now things have to move on, and quickly. Electronic media is a hungry beast that has to be fed, but it cannot be nourished by mediocrity, or sustained by complacency. The listeners of today are not the listeners of old.
All credit is due to those who soldiered behind the scenes to get the licence, and who patiently kept the vision alive when it seemed that ICASA was never going to budge. The back room story may never be told, but it needs to be acknowledged.
On the national scale, VOC has been a trend-setter in Islamic broadcasting, and internationally, our activity and outreach has been a source of admiration. People are always pleasantly surprised to hear that VOC has more outside broadcasts than any other broadcaster in Africa, and that it offers bursaries and feeds the hungry in Ramadan.
On the air we have traversed issues where others still fear to tread. I have come across no other comparable broadcasters anywhere in the globe (other than Democracy Now) who can offer the open-minded platform to such a variety of local, national and international guests of so many creeds, colours and cultures that we do.
I think we need to understand that in a world of Islamophobia, false-flag terrorism and strife, we occupy a rare space where the voice of truth can be heard. In Islamic states we would all have been imprisoned already, and in many western democracies – because of our focus on Palestine – our airwaves would have been closed down by the lobbyists years ago.
Without doubt, VOC is a unique South African product!