[By: Kgomotso Moncho]
Alan Khan is a well known name in radio circles. But more than that, Khan is a reputable media personality, as well as an academic. He is now the Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at the Durban University of Technology and is included in the judging panel of the MTN Radio Awards. He is a former CEO of Jacaranda 94.2; former deputy MD of East Coast Radio and a presenter of the weekday morning show there, called Big Breakfast. His career started at TNT Radio back in 1990. He joined Capital Radio 604 in 1993 and worked there until the station’s last day of broadcast on November 26, 1996. On television Khan presented Powerboating on Supersport in the 90s and co- hosted Am2day, a daily morning national TV show on SABC2. He has written for The Post in Durban as a sports columnist. In 2008 he gave a presentation at the third Annual African Media & Broadcast Congress of his paper on The Future of Radio in a Digital World: Is The Internet an Extinction Level Event For Radio? He always has radio on his mind. He speaks to Radiobiz about that and more.
What has your experience in radio revealed to you about the SA radio industry?
The South African radio industry is in an interesting position. Whilst the regulator has licensed new commercial broadcasters, the big private media owners still dominate the landscape. This has resulted in shared content with common programming and news strategies and two or three sales houses that control radio advertising. These are not necessarily all negative concepts however, as technology and access to technology improves in South Africa, radio will have to evolve and the way we play the game will need to change.
Are you still actively involved in radio?
Unfortunately not. After two decades in the industry, I needed a change and wanted to relocate back home to Durban. However, as Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at the Durban University of Technology, I’m often interviewed by radio stations in KZN and I still get excited every time I’m on air. I am now also a client and it’s been interesting sitting on the other side of the table, especially since I have some knowledge of what the media owners and broadcasters are trying to sell. My involvement as a judge in the MTN South African Radio Awards also keeps me close to the medium that I still love.
What does being involved in the MTN Radio Awards do for you?
Personally, being a member of the judging panel allows me to play a positive role in acknowledging outstanding talent, great ideas, superb storytelling and broadcast innovation. It also gives me the opportunity to track new talent which is being nurtured on campus and community radio. The commercial radio industry will be reliant on this new talent to be original, to be innovative and to ply a significant role to ensure that radio remains relevant to a changing audience with new behaviours.
What observations have you made from the judging?
I have been impressed by some of the talent on campus and community radio. If they are allowed to flourish and maintain their originality, then many have a successful future ahead. Then again, I have been left a little disappointed by the radio promotions and competitions. Many of these are copies or extensions of concepts from Australia, England or the USA. It would be good to see more original ideas coming through. I would love to see the audience becoming “the stars of the show!”
Which categories do you enjoy?
I always go to the campus and community categories first. Then, being a former breakfast and afternoon drive presenter, I’m keen to assess those entries, followed by radio promotions and news/talk/current affairs. I think that it is fantastic that the MTN South African Radio Awards also recognize Hall of Famers and Brightstars.
How do you think radio is faring in the digital world today?
They once said that video would kill the radio star! Well, VHS is dead but radio is still here! My gut feel is that the digital revolution will not be an extinction level event for radio. Certainly, it brings new challenges and increases the options for the audience but if radio can remain relevant to its market, continue to deliver local, original, fun and entertaining content, it will still have a fighting chance. South Africa has had unique developments. We are still waiting for the digital signal migration to materialize and once television goes digital, radio should be next, however, that could be some years away. At the end of the day, it’s all about the audience and if radio cannot retain and grow target markets, then there could be trouble ahead. You are already seeing media owners diversify from pure broadcasting. Many have invested in digital platforms, not just for content needs but for revenue generation too. In my opinion, the next 10 years will be a vital phase in the radio evolution.
Do you think there are areas local radio could improve on?
Yes. I think presenters must be excellent storytellers. The art of delivering a good story in 30 seconds is disappearing. There should also be a renewed focus on original, fun and innovative promotions and concepts. Radio talent should be actively and consistently promoted. There has to be higher profiles for our leading on air talent in South Africa. It’s not just about the station brand. Then, I honestly believe that radio is about connecting people. Let’s be honest, it was one of the first forms of social media. I also love the fact that so many radio stations have a social conscious. The outstanding projects that take place around the country are a credit to the industry. Whether it be blankets, toys, teddy bears, food parcels, schools, rhinos or awareness in the fight against domestic violence, rape and child abuse, radio does its bit. The industry really has the ability to change people’s lives for good!
It’s often said that the media cannot tell you what to think, but what to think about. What is the sole role of radio to you?
Someone once said that “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It’s all about the people! From the audience, to the presenter, the sales executive to the client, the programme manager to the marketing experts. Radio must connect with the consumer and for that to happen, radio needs to have intimate knowledge of their audience. And with that knowledge, radio can start making the relevant connections to satisfy their consumer’s needs. Radio must remember that what people want and what people need is not always the same thing!
What makes good radio?
Radio has to compete in the battle of the attention economy. As it faces the challenges of a world in evolution, a digital environment and a changing audience – radio has to be relevant, be local, be original, be fun and connect with the consumer. Radio must focus on connecting people. But one thing is certain, increased competition coupled with a changing digital world is forcing radio to up its game and evolve, which can’t be a bad thing.
Anything you’d like to add?
I would like to congratulate all the winners at the 2013 MTN South African Radio Awards. I am also proud of the Hall of Fame and Brightstar recipients. I would also like to thank Lance, Taryn, Michelle, Jeremy and the entire team at the MTN South African Radio Awards for their passion, commitment, dedication and support of South African radio.
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