Sociologies of voice and language: radio broadcasting and the ethnic imperative

Brillant Mhlanga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article places ethnic radio stations in South Africa within the discourse of sociologies of voice and language using Munghana Lonene FM (ML FM) as a case study. Unlike most traditional researches that usually focus on audience studies, this research was informed by a situated qualitative trajectory in which radio presenters and the radio station staff were interviewed. These respondents were chosen due to their dual roles, first as members of the Tsonga community and thus seen by the community as their voice and representatives; and second, as professional policy implementers who have a public duty to serve a public broadcaster. Radio broadcasting as a mass medium possesses the advantage of exploiting the sound, which uses voice and language to construct cultural symbols and phanerons that create meanings. As the technology of mass communication radio continues to create a form of social intrigue in most rural communities. This article will argue that the conversational approach used by ML FM of mxing music and talk in Tsonga encourages the creation of a sociological natal affiliation; a form of `we' feeling that translates into notions of ownership and belonging and empowerment. By re-establishing ML FM the post-apartheid leadership created a case for residual and incremental policy models. As a residual policy model, ML FM stands as the inherited radio broadcasting structure of the apartheid system, whereas social transformation processes and human agency including the formulation and implementation of new policies marks a point of departure as an incremental policy model. Local content usage in programming and music for the Tsonga as an ethnic group projects ML FM as the voice of the Tsonga people. Through different programmes, social meanings, symbols, world-views and life-worlds are created. As part of the radical transforma¬tion of SABC and as a decentralised public broadcaster ML FM can be seen as the conduit for the eschatologies of liberation and social transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209 - 226
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of African Media Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


  • ethnicity; language; voice; empowerment; nation state; South Africa


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