South African media have much in common with media in BRICS and other countries in the global South, in the sense that its media systems inherited frameworks from the colonial era that are either no longer applicable or are urgently in need of reform. In South Africa the re-emergence of debates on the decolonization of knowledge and culture has revived interest in the tenuous link between democracy and the country’s post-apartheid media institutions. This chapter argues that there is an urgent need to interrogate, uncover and unsettle power in the existing media models. The experience of democratization in South Africa demonstrates the necessity for a contextually embedded approach to the role of media in transitioning societies. Crucially, the chapter draws attention to the tensions between Southern African understandings and visions of democracy and those which have been articulated by global North paradigms, which are not always transferable to the different contexts of the BRICS countries. Through the case of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the chapter examines how public service broadcasting in a transitional democracy raises questions about the nature of democratic participation. By rooting the analysis of democratic participation within local histories, practices and contexts, the chapter argues for a contextually driven framework for understanding the role of media systems in democracy in Southern Africa.