This article draws on the challenges confronting community media in South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria to propose a ‘rethink’ in media policy conception and the political processes for policy-making. It suggests an ‘ethical-political’ policy model as best suited to the contribution of community media towards sophistication in media policy discourse in the twenty-first century. The article locates community media within the conceptual framework of ‘alternative journalism’ and the scholarly debates about ‘shapers’ of media policy decisions. The empirical data are drawn from oral interviews conducted between 2011 and 2014. The study concludes, firstly, that African governments and media regulators need to quickly redress the pressures on community media to improve their effectiveness as policy activists. Secondly, the challenge of community media to media policy requires a revision of the conceptual, social, and political frameworks for media policy-making along the ‘ethical-political’ logic to make them more integrative and sophisticated. And thirdly, the contribution of community media requires greater public and academic acknowledgement. These issues are considered from the sociological and philosophical perspectives and only in relation to community press and broadcasting media.