This article critically examines the processes that have limited the development of a democratic media system in post-apartheid South Africa. After a brief overview of the formation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, the evolution of the ANC's economic policies and approach to privatization is discussed. This provides the context in which the transformation of the broadcasting system since 1994 in South Africa can be understood. The privatization of radio stations in 1996 indicates the political tensions that shape media reform. It is argued that the progress of democratic broadcasting reform is increasingly being dictated by the state's programme for restructuring the telecommunications sector. In conclusion, it is suggested that the post-1994 period has witnessed a diminution in the influence of independent civil society organizations over media policies, consequent upon an increasingly centralized and bureaucratic emphasis in policy formulation and implementation.