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The Intrinsic Value & Heart of Radio

Being on the commercial side of radio and in a business like mine, I often take the cynical view that every radio station is a massive marketplace, with every word that comes out a presenter’s mouth up for sale. It’s easy to get lost in sales figures and forget the intrinsic value and heart of radio. That’s why I make a point of immersing myself back into raw radio as often as I can to reignite my love for the medium.

Community love
I took some time out with Jozi FM recently, a crown jewel on the community radio scene. Broadcasting primarily to Soweto, Jozi FM (according to the May 2018 BRCSA numbers) has an audience of around 629 000 listeners. To put that into context, big brand commercial stations in Gauteng such as YFM and 702 have 610 000 and 469 000, respectively.

While I was waiting in reception at Jozi FM, I noticed a someone rifling through a box of ID and driver’s cards, only to find out later that, when listeners and residents find such items, the first place they bring them to is the radio station — and everyone who has lost one knows to go there to look for it. It’s not Stash the Cash but the community’s adoption of the station is so much deeper. It also offers a great platform to local musicians, community leaders and business people (who can pay for their ad campaigns at reception with a debit card), with even metro cops listening to the station to get tipoffs on stolen vehicles. A display of the life blood of the community that runs through this station’s big beating heart.

What I find so remarkable about Jozi FM’s appeal is, with Soweto being so diverse, that to connect on that level with so many people is amazing.

Conference love
I also spent time at the recent Radio Days Africa 2018; I’m always happy to do so. Conference director and all-round radio savant, Tim Zunckel, has curated as fine a group of speakers as you would find in one place speaking about radio affecting South Africa. Local radio conferences can be a little ‘meh’ but this event is as good as any I’ve attended anywhere.

Over the course of four days, whatever your radio fancy, it was spoken about at Radio Days Africa: DAB updates from SA through to Norway and Holland, breakfast-show health checks, radio imaging master classes, presenter insights, African language and PBS think tanks, community station success stories running alongside the civil war brewing around community stations, amazing radio people from Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Burundi, podcasting, innovation, streaming stations — it was all there.

If you have some time, you may find podcasts from all the sessions on radiodaysafrica.co.za/podcasts. It won’t be time wasted if you’re interested in ANY aspect of radio.

Keeping in love
Both my experience at Radio Days and with Jozi FM have left me with a broader appreciation, insight and a few more LinkedIn connections than I arrived with. What pleased me, above all, in both instances was the amount of young people still passionate about radio. We’re told this is a medium millennials don’t care for; that’s in no way the truth.

Straddling the line between programming and profit makes me feel like a low-rent version of Bruce Banner calming the Hulk. I don’t know who the good guy is in this scenario but I’ll not easily leave the commercial side of radio as I have school fees to pay and a sneaker habit to feed — but it’s days spent like the ones above which keep me in love with the heart of the beast called radio.

– Paulo Dias