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How do I start a radio station?

A information filled guide to starting a radio station.




Broadcasting in South Africa is regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which issues broadcast licenses; ensures service and access; monitors the industry and deals with disputes; controls and manages the frequency spectrum; and protects consumers from unfair business practices.

The Licence

Types of licences

In the past 10 years, 94 community radio broadcasting licenses and 10 commercial licenses have been awarded in South Africa.

Each radio station is aimed at a specific market which means that there are only a certain number of consumers it can reach with its advertising. A station which reaches a larger consumer audience can charge more for its advertising rates.

In South Africa there are three types of radio licences:

  • PBS (Public broadcasting)
  • Commercial
  • Community

“It isn’t too difficult to get a community broadcast license, but the station has to be of interest to a specific community broadcasting information specific to a community like religion,” says Neil Johnson, Kaya FM programme manager.

How to apply for a licence

This year the Electronic Communications Act changed regarding frequency regulations.

“The Act now makes allowance to create your own frequency. Once you have the frequency you can apply for the license. As long as the application fits into a community of interest i.e. religion or has the right geographic footprint, a community license will be granted”, says Cathy.

“The cost to submit an application is R3000 which is non-refundable and you have to submit 26 copies to ICASA. In real terms the application costs a lot more because of the research and work required to complete the application. If you have never been in radio you have to learn the process and completing the application forces you to learn the process.”

How to Register Your Radio Station as a Business

Find out everything you need to know about registering your new business with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission.

Music rights

In order to broadcast music it’s necessary to register with the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO).

It was established to protect the intellectual property of composers and authors, as well as to ensure that composers and authors are adequately remunerated both locally and internationally for music usage.

The cost of music usage is based on the income of the radio station.

The Equipment

Where to source radio station equipment

“Before buying radio broadcast equipment first apply for a broadcast licence which you can obtain through ICASA.

The cost of equipment to set up a fully functioning radio station costs between R450 000 and R1.5million.

At the moment there is no available frequency in the Johannesburg area, but things might change when the digital system replaces the analogue system”, says Russel Jones, Systems Engineer for BNI.

Here are some of South Africa’s most established suppliers:


BNI has 21 years of technology experience in Africa, and over 100 years of accumulated experience in the broadcast and telecommunication industry. They offer consultation services and work closely with clients in order to meet their studio and transmission requirements.

Related: Start-ups: Creating A High Tech/High Touch Environment

They also assist clients with licensing and regulatory obligations, geographical surveys, propagation surveys, and prediction and interference studies. “For example when you set up a radio station you have to select a high site in order to get a signal, this is where our expertise fits in”, advises Jones.

EMS Africa

Enhanced Media Systems Africa are distributors of essential products for the music, studio and broadcast markets. They specialise in broadcast and recording systems and offer a comprehensive range of broadcast solutions – from a community based radio station to network radio and TV environments.


Sound Fusion has 25 years accumulated research, development and manufacturing of professional broadcast equipment. Most of the equipment is made in South Africa. They offer the sale and installation of radio equipment.

Related: No Money to Start a Business? No Problem. Try These 5 Options

SoundFusion also offer training courses which are designed to give learners an understanding of the professional audio environment and to provide them with sufficient skills to play a useful role working in the live sound, recording or radio studio industries.

Your Options

Commercial Radio Stations

There are a number of commercial radio licenses which will be available up until the end of September 2009.

For example, applications for Capital Radio’s broadcasting license are open until 30 September. In order to get a commercial license, you have to apply to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

According to a recent Bizcommunity report, “The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa invites interested parties to apply for the Capital Radio commercial broadcasting license to serve the eastern coastline of KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.”

Costs of set-up

The Department of Communications has put a price tag of R6 million to be paid by the successful broadcasting license applicant. The license is valid for 6 years from the date of issue. This gives a very good indication of the cost of equipment when setting up a commercial radio station.

“However, one cannot buy equipment to start a radio station until a license has been granted. In South Africa licenses are very hard to come by as there is so little frequency left,” says Cathy Kaler, director of ChaiFM 101.9 which was granted a community broadcasting license in 2007 and began broadcasting at the end of 2008.

There are fixed expenses to cover such as equipment, technical assistance and rent. A community station such as ChaiFM 101.9 runs with a volunteer staff. “Community buy-in was crucial to our success. We do our own advertising which has been incredibly useful as we understand first-hand what works and what doesn’t.”

Community radio stations

There are an estimated 10-million radio sets in South Africa, with listeners many times that number. The country now has over 90 community stations, who broadcast in many different languages. Examples of Community radio stations are:

  • 906 FM Vaal Radio
  • Bay FM
  • Bush Radio
  • Campus Radio
  • CCFM

How to qualify as a community radio station

To qualify as a community radio station the business has to be registered as a Section 21 company or as a Trust.

How do you reserve and AM or FM frequency?

The best way to find out which frequencies are available is to contact ICASA.

Broadcasting in South Africa is regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which issues broadcast licences for AM, FM and MW. This body controls and manages the frequency spectrum.

To reserve a frequency

“At the current time there are no FM or AM frequencies available in the Gauteng area, says Tshifularo Sigwavhulimu”, Radio Frequency Specialist at ICASA.

But there is good news. ICASA will shortly be making available a number of AM frequencies to anyone, meaning commercial or community stations, this year. “At the moment we are not sure when we will be issuing invitations to apply for licences, but it will be during 2010,” explains Sigwavhulimu.

In order to receive notification that applications must be submitted email as soon as possible so that you can be notified via email to submit your application in good time.

Finding a frequency

During 2009 the Electronic Communications Act changed regarding frequency regulations regarding community licences.

Related: The Basics of Branding Your Station

“The Act now makes allowance to create your own frequency.  Once you have the frequency you can apply for the licence. As long as the application fits into a community of interest i.e. religion or has the right geographic footprint, a community licence will be granted”, says Cathy Kaler, director of ChaiFM 101.9.

Revenue Sources

How does a radio station generate revenue?

There are three ways that a radio station can earn revenue.

Radio stations earn most of their revenue through advertising. Most stations earn from the 30 second spots which are aired throughout the broadcast.

The second form of revenue is earned through non- traditional methods which include:

  • Promotions
  • Events
  • Competitions
  • Giveaways
  • Sponsorships

Lastly, radio stations can earn revenue through ad sales on digital platforms such Internet broadcasting through streaming audio and also the station’s own Internet website, e-mailers and SMS campaigns.

Did you know?

In the US during 2003, revenue from “online streaming music radio” was $49 million. By 2006, that figure rose to $500 million. In 2007 a survey of 3 000 Americans (released by Consultancy Bridge Ratings & Research) showed that 19% of U.S. consumers 12 and older listen to Web-based radio stations.

Related: How To Survive 150 Straight Rejections

This means that there are around 57 million weekly listeners of Internet radio programmes. One in seven aged 25-54 listen to online radio each week and more people listen to online radio than to satellite radio, high-definition radio, podcasts, or cell-phone-based radio according to Wikipedia.

Prefer Digital?

Where to find internet radio stations

The wonderful thing about Internet radio services are that they are usually accessible from anywhere in the world – for example, one could listen to an Australian station from Europe or America.

Some major networks like Clear Channel in the US and Chrysalis in the UK restrict listening to smaller areas because of music licensing and advertising concerns.

The most common way to distribute Internet radio is via streaming technology.

The cheapest way to start a radio station is to broadcast through the internet.

If you want to start your own radio station and don’t have much capital, it isn’t too difficult using the Internet. You need a computer with a large hard drive, some spare dedicated bandwidth, and a good sized collection of music.

There are sites such as Poromenos, Shoutcast or TechCrunch which offer tutorials on setting up internet radio streaming. Depending on your level of technical expertise and the tools available to you, you can either setup your own server, or find a hosting solution from a third party.

It’s quite possible to start an Internet-based Radio station that operates for the purpose of profit and generating re

How to locate internet radio stations in South Africa

Use a specialised search engine to track Internet streamed radio stations. One such tool is This search engine has been running since 2005 and its main aim is to assist users in finding streaming internet radio stations from all over the world while at the same time assisting these radio stations in promoting their names amongst potential listeners.

By visiting you can use their search bar to find an internet radio station by typing in a specific keyword, country, genre or even artist name if you know it. The website will them provide you with a number of listings that matched your search.

By clicking on the various options you will be taken to a page that will provide you with a brief description of the station and what you can expect as a listener. If you would like to listen you can click on the image of their website which will take you to their site so that you can begin streamlining and listening to your favourite station.

A few examples of South African internet radio stations include:

1. Student Radio.

This is site promotes a number of student radio stations such as TuksFM and UCT Radio and ensures that all students are catered to with regards to the latest local and international music right from their computers. Their website also provides listeners with event and gig guides as well as celebrity news from around the world.

2. Rhythm 100 Radio.

This urban radio station broadcasts throughout the day and night and brings African, hip hop and R&B music to their listeners.

3. Radio Veritas.

This online streaming station caters to catholic listeners from all over the country. Their shows are broadcasted on a daily basis, well into the evening.

4. Sound Republic Web Radio.

Derek the Bandit is the creator of this website which offers a variety of music options including a 24/7 streamlining radio station and a variety of podcasts.

 For more information

Unesco has released a free downloadable book which goes into the operational detail of starting your own community radio station. Topics covered in this book: Facilities, management, installation of equipment, financing and securing the broadcast license.

Related: Enterprise Development Programmes For Black Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Start-up Industry Specific

How Do I Start A Transport Or Logistics Business?

An all in one guide to starting a transport and logistics business.




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Thinking about starting a transport business?

Forecasts indicate that the demand for freight transport will grow in South Africa by between 200% and 250% over the 15 to 20 years.

Some corridors, (high volume transport routes that connect major centres), such as the corridors between Gauteng and Cape Town (which amount to 50% of all corridor transport) will increase even faster.

The scope in the transport and logistics industry is varied – from a one-man show using a small truck to transport goods and offer services, to a fleet of transport vehicles which travel the length and breadth of South Africa’s roads.

Road transportation includes commuter transport from taxis to bus transportation.

It can be a tough industry and there are many threats facing transport businesses but if you get it right, you can build a successful business.

What is covered in this guide:

  1. How to start your transport and logistics business
  2. How to get funding for your transport business
  3. What are the costs involved
  4. Finding customers and getting transport contracts
  5. Getting onto suppliers lists
  6. Buying trucks and employing drivers
  7. What are the regulations and risks
  8. Where to find guidance to start your business.

Ready to get going? Click the arrow button to learn how to start your own transport business.

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How Do I Start A Security Company In South Africa?

There are two kinds of security companies, one that sells products and one that sells services or you can combine both.





To start a security service company in South Africa you must register with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (SIRA). There are two kinds of security companies, one that sells products and one that sells services or you can combine both. It is estimated that the private security industry in South Africa employs over 400 000 individuals.

If you’re looking at starting a security guard company in South Africa, the following guide will be able to assist you in the deciding if it’s the right decision for you.

You need a lot of capital

Starting a security business requires a good deal of capital outlay and it’s highly recommended that one should have a background in this field.

Decide what kind of company you want to start

There are two kinds of security companies, one that sells products and one that sells services or you can combine both. Each sector falls under its own regulatory body.

What about area competition?

Greg Margolis is the CEO of NYPD Security, a niche security company that has operated for the last five years in the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

“To run your own security service company I think that you have to be well rounded in terms of not just being a good business person, but you also have to be a people person, a marketing person and know a good deal about the business.

“There’s tough competition, but I love what I do and wouldn’t sell my business even if I was offered triple what its worth. I am passionate about what I do”, says Margolis.

Starting a Security Services Business

To start a security service company in South Africa you must register with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). This includes paying a registration fee of R2 280 and writing an exam. Once you have passed the exam, proved that you do not have a criminal record, SIRA will conduct an inspection to establish whether or not your business meets the infrastructure requirements. A further fee of R1 710 is charged for the assessment. Each year the business is re-accessed which costs a further R500 plus the annual renewal fee or R520.

The following documentation is required for registration:

  1. An authenticated copy of the CM1, CM2, CM27, CM29, CM31 and CM 46 (apply at Registrar of Companies or Attorneys), if the applicant is a company;
  2. An authenticated copy of the Partnership Agreement if the applicant is a partnership;
  3. An authenticated copy of the trust deed and the letter of authorisation to the trustees from the Master of the High Court if the applicant is a business trust

Related:Steps for Setting the Right Prices for Your Security Business

Also required:

  1. The Suretyship form (SIRA 4) to be signed by the natural person who has taken full responsibility of the security business
  2. Every director, member, partner (as the case may be) applying for registration as a security business must have successfully completed, at a training establishment accredited in terms of law, at least, the training courses Grade E to B
  3. An authenticated copy of the Tax Clearance Certificate from the South African Revenue Service (SARS)
  4. An authenticated copy of the VAT Registration Number from SARS.
  5. An authenticated copy of the PAYE number from SARS
  6. An authenticated copy of the COID number (Compensation for Occupational Injuries & Diseases) from the Department of Labour
  7. Sufficient information in writing to enable the Authority to ascertain that the applicant security business meets the requirements with regard to the infrastructure and capacity necessary to render a security service;

This include, inter alia, the following:

  1. Submit a business plan to the Authority including the location and activities
  2. A resolution by the applicant security business stating that it will be able to operate for the next year
  3. The applicant proves that it has an administrative office that is accessible to the inspectors of the SIRA
  4. The applicant must have equipment which is necessary for the management and administration of the security business, e.g. fixed telephone, fax machine, a hard copy or electronic filing system for the orderly keeping of all records and documentation
  5. Show that the affairs of the applicant security business are managed and controlled by appropriately experienced, trained and skilled persons
  6. The applicant security business has at its disposal a sufficient number of registered and appropriately trained and skilled security officers for the rendering of a security service for which it has contracted or is likely to contract
  7. The security officers must be properly controlled and supervised
  8. The applicant security officer has at its disposal sufficient and adequately skilled administrative staff members for the administration of the affairs of the applicant
  9. The business must have has all the necessary equipment, including vehicles,  uniforms, clothing and equipment that must be issued to its security officers
  10. The applicant security business is in lawful possession of the firearms and other weapons that are necessary offer security services in respect of which it has contracted.

Related: Get going with a One Page Business Plan

Landing contracts


The most important thing you can do to start and operate your own business is to develop a good business plan.

It’s invaluable because the business plan forces you to come to terms with your business. Selling the business concept seems to the problem, said Margolis. These are his five tips that will help to get the business going.

“The security industry in South Africa is very competitive. You have to get out there and you have to keep knocking on doors, there isn’t an easy solution”, explains Margolis.

Top Tips

1. Look at your business plan and decide if you have a competitive advantage. If not, work out how you can make the market understand the unique value your small business has to offer.

2. It is important to make yourself known. It isn’t difficult or expensive to increase awareness about the business. Attend ratepayer meetings, spend time at the local police stations, and attend meetings the police have with residents and businesses in the area. This way people get to know you and respect you and half the battle is won. Networking is the way to go.

3. It’s my experience that bigger companies are reluctant to give security contracts to a company that is a one-man show. Make sure that you have a structure in place. Clients need to know if something happens to you, the business will not fall apart, and the services they have paid for and you have agreed to supply, will not cease. Clients need to understand that besides experience, that you are credible and that all the checks and balances are in place. This must be one of the key selling points.

4. Consider taking on a partner. Choose a partner who has the attributes that you lack. The ideal partner would be one with strong links and contacts in the community that you want to work with. Let your partner control the selling side while you handle areas you’re strong in, such as expertise and service delivery. The other option is to employ sales staff.

5. Stay abreast of new trends in the field, and update your skills. This is something that I strongly believe in. You have to be well rounded in terms of not just being a good businessperson, but you also have to be a people person, a marketing and sales manager and know a good deal about the neighbourhoods you work.


Are you new to starting a business? Read 15 Things Every Newbie Needs to Know About Starting a Business

Security products

What are the requirements to start a security product supplier business?

If you are starting a security company that sells electronic alarm systems and other security products it’s wise to become a member of SAIDSA in order to provide your business with the credibility it needs to be taken seriously by the public and security service providers.

The objective of SAIDSA is to upgrade the quality and standards of electronic security and to protect the public from unscrupulous, “fly-by-night” operators. When a security system is purchased, an ongoing relationship is entered into between the purchaser and the security service company concerned.

The security service product supplier must have the infrastructure and the required expertise to support the relationship continuously.

Security Sector Regulatory Bodies

The security industry has established a number of bodies to regulate itself. Membership in these bodies is voluntary. They include:

Ready to get going? Here’s 10 Steps to Start Your Business For Free (Almost)

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