Focusing on local issues, Soweto TV in its first phase delivers a diet of innovative and experimental programming that poor communities can relate to. With increasing numbers of traditional viewers turning away from public broadcasters media analysts predict that the market will become more competitive and open up a whole new sphere for advertising.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (MAY 11, 2012) (REUTERS) -Community based TV stations have steadily sprung up in South Africa, where more and more viewers are asking for more content that reflect their realities - a quality that has been lacking in commercial stations
The country's first community broadcaster Soweto TV was launched in 2007, catering to more than four million people living in the sprawling township.
It is driven by community derived content with programming that focuses on the most important issues faced by the township's residents. It also features entertainment and lifestyle shows.
Soweto TV head of content, Aubrey Moatlhodi, says the station's success stems from the fact that it remains true to its audience when it comes to producing content that is driven by issues faced by the community.
"We tell Soweto stories, we tell real stories whereby other TV stations don't tell real stories from Soweto, so we talking about stories from Soweto by Sowetans, hence this big viewership, " he said.
Today, with increasing numbers of traditional viewers turning away from public broadcasters like the SABC (South Africa Broadcasting Corporation), media analysts predict that the market will become more competitive and open up a whole new sphere, where advertisers will eventually look to alternative broadcasters to market their products.
Last year, Soweto TV launched a new antenna that now enables people across the Gauteng province to have access to the first free to air community television station.
Soweto TV is also now available on DSTV, a digital satellite television service that is broadcast on the whole of the African continent.
"The mere idea that people know are keen for broadcasters to talk to them at their level, in their tone, in their language and understand their dynamics, and I think there in lies the success story of Soweto Community Television," said Soweto TV station manager Kgomotso Moeketsi.
Soweto residents say that Soweto TV has given them a voice.
"People think Soweto TV is the best, because it's more local than your SABC channels, it also improves people's lives, I think it's quite good," said Soweto resident, Sizwe Xaba.
"I think Soweto TV is more local, because you can even hear its name Soweto TV so it brings put only the local things," added two young fans, Megan Mofolatsi and Thembisile Mlamla.
The success of Soweto TV has inspired the development of community TV in the south, where Cape Town TV (CTV) which now has a viewership of around 2.6 million.
Similar community television stations have also sprung out in other parts of the country, such as Tshwane (formerly Pretoria), Nelson Mandela Bay and Richards Bay in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Funded in 2008 by media activists, CTV follows the same concept of giving audiences community driven content. As audiences grow CTV has seen a marked increase in advertiser interest.
"The sense that I get from a lot of people is that they are tired of a constant diet of entertainment television. They really want more information and education, which is what we are giving them," said CTV station manager, Karen Thorne.
Despite the growth of community TV in the last few years in South Africa, media analysts like Chris Moerdyk warns that community stations need to be aggressive in their marketing and sales to attract more advertisers, and be less dependent on donors.
"The community TV as a whole is extremely powerful and it's got enormous reach, but the point is advertisers are not using it. Simply from the point of view that the community radio stations, community TV and even the community news papers really have not considered the importance of marketing and sales. Many of them really could do a lot better if they had some kind of far better sales structure. Which they don't have."
But other media experts caution that dependence on advertising could compromise the ability of community TV stations to carry content relevant to its viewers.