THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) cannot
broadcast as a national radio station from its newly built studio because it
will not be granted a licence to do so.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
will not grant Cosatu the licence because the law does not allow political
parties to own a broadcast licence.

Even though Cosatu is a trade union it is seen as a
political party because of its alliance with the ANC and SACP. A potential
hiccup the party says it knew it would be faced with from the concept of the
radio station.

The studio which plans to start airing in October will try
to get the law amended but in the meantime will broadcast via satellite and
link to community radio stations such as Alex FM. It will also be broadcast on
the internet and mobile phones; its conceptual broadcast name is Cosatu waves.

Since Cosatu already has a resource and archive centre, the
union has planned an expansion project which includes radio broadcasting and
production, video and television production, a photo archive and digital
documentation, all of which is to be accessed on the internet.

“The project focused on radio [first] because of the
availability of funds for it and the need expressed by workers to tell their
own story,” says Nandipha Miti, Cosatu digital hub’s project manager.

Miti, who attended the Wits radio course in July, will be
managing the expansion project and will also assist with news production. The
station plans on hiring presenters and wants to broadcast news programmes,
interviews, information, drama and political debates “and thus give Cosatu and
its affiliates [unions] an opportunity to speak to its members and society as a

Mike Smurthwaite, station manager at VOW FM, says a person
would just need a recorder and a laptop to broadcast over the internet. He also
found it puzzling how Cosatu would reach its members and the people they

“Members are based all over the spectrum, it’s not an
in-house radio station like Pick ‘n Pay,” he says,

“They [Cosatu] are fighting for a liveable wage of R4500 for
its members, where are they going to listen and how – while they are working?
The cost of data streaming on your mobile is high, is it affordable for its

Political science honours student, Mncedisi Mvelase says he
thinks it is a “great move from them to bring about their message”.

“Right now they feel marginalised by the ANC and, within the
current debate in Cosatu, they are dissatisfied with the ANC, it could be a
move to show their independence,” says Mvelase.