In the age of accessible information, media has played a unique role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Quick communication has allowed us to mobilise, keep ourselves safe and isolated, while also keeping socially connected. While it has played an important and positive role in responding to the health crisis, it has also highlighted the dangers of misinformation.
South Africa responded swiftly to concerns of spreading fake news by holding every person liable for prosecution if they are to create or spread misinformation about COVID-19 (https://www.gov.za/coronavirus/fakenews). In support, the Bulungula Community Radio (BCR) responded by creating daily content to ensure our community members were receiving reliable and up-to-date information about the pandemic.
The BCR extended its shows, produced by 10 DJs, to air from 6am to 8pm daily. Additionally, we installed the required transmitter to improve the quality of the broadcast.
Our audience grew rapidly, and we experienced the highest level of phone-in listener participation since the opening of the BCR. In addition, the BCR created a WhatsApp group to further the platform of sharing information and open-dialogue. The monitored WhatsApp group now has over 160 active members, from all over of the country. Furthermore, in order to incentivise safe COVID-19 health practices, the BCR held daily ‘Mask Challenge’ competitions, with R30 airtime prizes to the community-voted winners.
Now, the BCR plays a central role in our education catch-up plans by broadcasting material for learners. Most of our community members do not have personal access to e-learning technology, so the BCR is key in bridging education gaps.
The BCR will continue to broadcast information, but more importantly, it strives to create unity for our communities, and beyond!