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[By: Kagiso Mnisi]

Recent events at the ivory tower that is the SABC have attracted massive criticism from interest groups, overall media and anyone still seeing themselves a stakeholder to it. Marred by dubious operations and the nomination of an interim board chosen in haste has had the national broadcaster perpetually warding off lashings. The hardest hit in the sand storm has been Minister of Communication, Dina Pule. Vintage of an office bearer in the local political arena, she has shrugged off any form of accountability in the rot that has been festering at the SABC under her watch.

In an interview with Eusebius MacKaiser on 702’s Talk at nine, her ‘I don’t know what’s happening’ mantra became even more beguiling in not being ‘aware’ of board member, Pippa Green’s resignation. Through an analytical approach, Radiobiz lowers the boom on the SABC’s predicaments which include speculated government interference in operations, ailing programming and tarnished public relations. We put this challenge to Koffi M. Kouakou, Senior Lecturer and Scenario Planner at Wits Business School and Andrew K. Miller, communications strategist and regular contributor to Daily Maverick









Koffi M. Kouakou


Radiobiz: What do you think it will take to make the SABC a credible, accountable and decent programming bastion with the interim board?



KK: Transparency, openness, strong and a capable board and executive leadership that can design credible and locally diversified programming for South Africa is the solution to restoring the confidence and credibility in the SABC. The government should have a limited role in selecting the board member and interfere into the day to day programming decisions. Nothing else will do it.


Radiobiz: Do you think there has been any change at the SABC from what it was pre-democracy?


KK: Of course there have been great changes at the SABC. However the changes have been mainly political and not mainly technical and programmatic. But the changes have been mainly cosmetic in terms of political appointments, government interferences, bad management of talent recruitment and poor content programming. And of course in addition there have been an exorbitant financial expansion spending spree and overall excessive expenditures that have almost bankrupted the public broadcaster. In short, the SABC has not leveraged its vast public broadcaster potential to help inform, entertain and influence much deeply the political and economic growth of South Africa. It could do better. The future of the SABC is in the balance and has to be managed carefully and fast if SA is to benefit greatly from its enormous public broadcaster potential.


Radiobiz: Some analysts and parties have come out saying that there was an ulterior motive from the government in choosing the interim board. Are these founded from an analytical point of view?



KK: In part the analysts’ viewpoints may be founded because of the rush in the nomination of the interim board members. The nominations didn’t seem to be transparent and opened to public scrutiny. There is great public concern about the process of recruitment of the board members and the assessment of their competency to provide sound management guidance to the executives of the SABC. However the government had little time to act in order to show itself to be resolute and manage the short term crisis of the SABC management. Hopefully the actual board members nominations and the recruitment of the executive will be transparent.



Radiobiz: What effective broadcasting models (from elsewhere in the world) can the SABC learn from to provide Radio, TV and online content that respects its audience?



KK: One of the most praised effective models of public broadcasters in the world is the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The National Public Radio Network in the USA and Canada and the Australian Broadcasting are also useful models for the SABC to emulate. They have been successful in providing a basket of diversified content to their audiences at home and abroad.














Andrew K. Miller


Radiobiz: From a PR perspective, what does the board reshuffle at the SABC signal to the public?


AM: It signals more chaos. The public picks up on the reality of what’s going on, and then considers the PR issued by the organization after that. In a case like this, there is very little that can be done to alter the perception that the SABC is in a complete mess.



Radiobiz: What positioning device would best serve the SABC right now?


AM: As much honesty as possible. It will not serve the organization to create long winded explanations of why everything is fine, or will shortly be fine and so forth. This is a trap SAA is falling into at the moment. SAA is emerging with quite combative press statements and media interactions which bely a reality everyone can clearly see. The SABC needs to keep it short and keep it brutally honest. The less spin the better.


Radiobiz: Some analysts have described the SABC as not having broken ties with its past, how true is this in the modern day world of networks and transparency?


AM: National broadcasters are inherently political and so are very complex entities in any country in the world. There may be some truth in the statement that the SABC hasn’t detached from its past, but there’s probably equal truth in the idea that the organization is somewhat paralysed within the swirl of national politics in general.

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5FM Mornings with Gareth Cliff

Posted by radio On March - 26 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kgomotso Moncho]


Gareth Cliff is known for his controversial comments, most of which are aired on his morning show, 5FM Mornings and for which he has earned a number of complaints from listeners.  The BCCSA knows all too well of this.


But it seems Cliff is not fazed because not much has changed. He has hosted the breakfast sow on 5FM since July  2006 and some listeners are still getting offended by the things he says. Recently, a very religious woman was offended when Cliff joked about how a clip of the newly elected pope sounded as if he was ordering vodka.


With seven years on the breakfast show, Cliff has also earned himself listeners who get his dry and wacky sense of humour. But what he manages to do and perhaps be commended for is making current affairs stick and inciting dissent and debate around it. His joke about the pope was linked to the fact that ChisaNyama owners were preparing to protest the proposed law to not allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays. So at the heart of his gags is the motive to tap into what society may be thinking about.


He’s the authoritative voice on the show, but he manages with a spirited team that consists of news anchor, Leigh-Ann Mol; executive producer, Thabo Modisane; Traffic presenter, Mabale Moloi,; Assistant producer, Damon Kalvari and sports presenter Sias Du Plessis. Together they have an interesting camaraderie which has been made fluid by the experience of working together. For a news reader, Leigh-Ann has a less serious approach to her which is refreshing, but also borders on the authority that comes with a news anchor.


Thabo Modisane has the kind of voice that makes one want to crack up and his personality adds to the wackiness of the show. Everyone has a role to play and they lend their voice when they should. The whole show feels like a good example of what a reality radio show could sound and feel like. It is wacky, but also laid back, as if the team is not trying to prove a point, but just being themselves. Things get real to the point where you can most times, almost hear what is happening in the background. It can get a little irritating however when Cliff comments in between a bulletin.


But when there are technical difficulties, his experience helps him keep his cool and his authority is tested. His humour and his views also keep his team on its toes and incite debate from within. When talking about President Zuma and the Freedom Front Plus’ dialogue on white people still holding a high financial position in the country’s economy, it made for an interesting discussion. Although, it felt like Moloi held herself back somehow, and was afraid to challenge Cliff. 


The music is a good mix of popular music. It adds to the fun vibes that the show exudes. 5FM Mornings, is probably one of the best breakfast radio shows in this country. It might rub others the wrong way, and might seem a little offbeat. But it is its eccentricity that makes the show what it is.  What’s more, that quality does not seem forced it feels organic. 


And when April comes, which is the time when the radio industry tends to announce new line up, the 5FM Mornings team should be sitting pretty.       



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Flipping through the pages of radio

Posted by radio On March - 25 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kagiso Mnisi]


Its one thing to have a formula that has droves listening to your radio station with unwavering fanaticism but to extend the stations brand narrative via a publication is a whole other god-like feat.

Not to take anything away for men and women who have, this leap has been made and continues to marvel. When Yfm had its prepubescent ear yanked to the frontlines of radio in the late nineties, it had the cheek to gives us Y magazine. Any culture vulture or indulgent analyst can with bravado tell how the magazine’s first five issues were somewhat a revelation to the publishing industry. I mean how could it not have been under the editorship of ‘The General’ Sbu Nxumalo and Itumeleng Mhabane? They wore the revolution on their sleeve as thoughtful crusaders from Bertrams to Yeoville and later Rosebank, the one known as the General and the other an Ivy league educated civilian.


The magazine’s cover spreads adorned figure heads of that time from the pied pipers of Guz music, TKZee to the Zola born maestro Mdu. In an article for Chimurenga magazine, long narrative journalist, Nicole Turner, introspectively says “over the cold expanse of ten years, it’s difficult to encapsulate the sheer exuberance that accompanied those times and danced from the pages in staccato, machinegun prattle prose that stretched the boundaries of what was then considered magazine journalism.” She in that bite sized sentiment contracted what Y magazine was all about. But no revolution lasts forever, it is most of the time abandoned or betrayed. Nxumalo has since went on to meander the Joburg arts landscape and Mahabane cut himself a slice of the Financial Mail pie.  


Here with the other marriages between publication and radio:

Rolling Stone SA

In its second year running, the arts and entertainment publication steered by long time arts writer, Miles Keylock has been raved about ever since its first cover issue spotting Hugh Masekela. Its editor at large, Bongani Madondo, has also had us pinned to his signature style long narratives of ‘icons and God-figurines’. It came as no coincidence when the publication had a spot reserved for it on 2 Oceans Vibe internet radio. As part of the Just Josie Show (on Wednesdays between 12:00-14:00), Keylock usually has a list of song recommendations for listeners where the tone would be set by artists such as Buckfever Underground, Camagwini, BLK JKS and Savage Lucy



Euphemisms such as ‘legendary’ are understandably flimsy in this world of overnight stardom and reality television frenzy, but one thing the radio industry can ululate over is that Chris Gibbons has served the medium with enviable professionalism over the years. In the wake of being head-hunted by Gordon Institute of Business Science, he left 702’s Midday report to be editor in chief of Acumen for GIBS. Gibbons has brought three decades of business, management and journalism experience to the magazine.


Chimurenga and Pan African Space Station

As one of Chimurenga publication’s initiatives, PASS is dubbed a free form platform on the net and other venues across the African diaspora. The publication known for its long form critiques on the state of contemporary Africa is edited by Ntone Edjabe. Chimurenga recently launched a speculative newspaper known as The Chronic whose precept was to diagnose the xenophobic attacks that erupted during May 2008. Its PASS Radio sub division has been in existence for the past three years and is curated by Edjabe and Neo Muyanga. PASS radio, a unique freeform radio station; streams cutting edge music live online 24/7.


The station features themed shows, live performances, readings, sound art, interviews and special projects. The past year saw PASS Radio broadcasting from studios at Tagore’s Jazz Bar in Observatory, Cape Town as well as a satellite studios in Limbe, Cameroon and Kisangani in the DRC. New satellites will be setup in Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya. PASS plays host to genre-busting music outfits from global Africa dedicated to exploring new musical territory. The PASS live sessions take place in venues across Cape Town and the world.


Previous performers at PASS live sessions include Philip Tabane & Malombo, Kyle Sheperd Trio, Brice Wassy, G&D (Georgia Anne Muldrow & Declaime), Thandiswa Mazwai and Theo Parrish.





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Varsity Radio Network and the brand cloud

Posted by radio On March - 19 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kagiso Mnisi]

Student radio is mostly lauded as the perfect fertile ground to start off at for sake of learning tools of the trade. Widely known personalities such as Gareth Cliff, Metro FM’s Zeal and Nicole da Silva have all had their genesis on campus radio. More even so the network created by TUT, UJFM, UCT Radio, VUT, VoW and host of others also acts as a resource about campus goings on and academic alerts. What is newsworthy though is the awareness by the market to capitalize on the brand consciousness of University students via campus radio. Through activations and social clubs, brands have been able to intervene in student life as innovative proliferation such Puma Social Club, SMACK Republic and Power Play Griffin sessions have suggested. Campus radio has played a substantial role in mobilizing one of the financially care-free segments to take interest in these pop cultural shindigs where opportunity to influence is plenty.


Using the brand narrative of ‘creative rebellion’ brands are able to provide stimulus for the less jaded at heart and naturally students are a sure bet. Student radio stations are ran and operated by active members in this social scene and by default a controlled media space for idea exchange on where the latest exhibition, pop up shop or brand pilot is created. The Power Play Griffin Session as an example had well known Joburg DJ, Kenzhero, part of its activation story. As also a personality on UJFM he fit in effortlessly with the brand’s plot of a ‘hero’ in the city, which mirrored his accomplishments through the years plying his trade.


What gives the student radio network gravitas is its ability to forge an exploratory environment within individual stations. Just as community radio would be organic in format so do campus stations, this with the awareness that it is a myriad of subcultures and inclinations that are being catered for. A rough analytical sweep is likely to chart activity of students paying dues at NGOs, being part of book/ poetry clubs, work in clothing stores, organize gigs and an assortment of other cultural happenings in between lectures. What better way to give their maneuverings prominence on campus radio for an x- factor?


Renegade stations such as Invisible Cities Pirate radio in inner city Joburg have also given expanded space to jocks and producers from stations such as UJFM and VoW. In its affiliation with the city’s burst of subcultures, arterial byways for experimentation are extended whereby the same people at the helm of shows would also be part of an academic community. The melting pot that results has a cross referencing influence on both ends and thus steer the wave of trends in a direction of its own choosing.



Industry has a lot to gain from enclaves such as Varsity Radio Network in that there is plenty to farm in terms of developing concepts. It is where innovation germinates and gets sprouted to the rest of everything else in the ether. The generic perception that campus radio is only good for grooming is fast becoming redundant in the light that there is more happening in that world. A fresh way of thinking lives in it.

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Meet the MTN Radio Awards CEO, Lance Rothschild

Posted by radio On March - 19 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kgomotso Moncho]


The MTN Radio Awards are happening on April 13 at the Sandton Convention Centre. The judges for the radio industry’s prestigious night have already been announced. On March 25, a list of nominees will be revealed leading up to the main event.


Lance Rothschild is part of the judging panel, but he is also the CEO of the MTN Radio Awards. His background in broadcasting saw him as station manager of 5FM from 1986 to 1994 and he has worked with a lot of the leading names in the broadcasting scene including Alex Jay, Kevin Savage, Barney Simon, Tony Blewitt and many more. He left 5FM to join M-Net as General Manager of Premium Programming in May 1994 and subsequently spent some time in print media, gathering experience in online and social media.


He has a Marketing and Public Relations Consultancy firm and he retains a keen interest in the radio industry. Rothschild has published several articles about radio across several media and publications and he has consulted to various radio and media organisations. In 2011, Rothschild was the MC at the two-day Community Radio Conference hosted by The Media Connection at which he also presented a paper on radio station management entitled “The Business of Radio”


He has been involved with the MTN Radio Awards since their inception and has been CEO since 2011. 2013 marks the fourth year of the awards and Rothschild believes they have shown significant growth.“We have learnt a lot and we’re implementing what we learnt. These are things like how to categorise and how to even out the competition in the sections. The first year, for which the awards were a pilot project, had limited entries with only English submissions.  This inception phase had only 200 submissions.  Year two saw 400 entries including commercial and non commercial stations.  Year three had 866 entries and it was coming of age of the MTN Radio Awards,” he says.


This year the awards boast more than 1000 entries covering over 68 different stations making them the only radio awards that encompass the entire radio sector looking at all pillars, which are campus, commercial, PBS and community radio. Rothschild maintains the awards are a full time business programme that culminates yearly in the gala event. His work all year round involves visiting various stations and conversing with the industry. There are road shows as well as conferences and seminars that take place to get more participation from the radio sectors.


The MTN radio Awards have not been without some criticism from those who find fault with the nomination process, amongst other things.  Nomination is left up to the stations and individuals to submit samples of their best work and Rothschild feels it’s the fairest way to get entries in, while critics feel listeners or an independent panel should nominate.

“Advertising agencies submit entries for the Loeries, as well. This encourages accountability for and pride in one’s work. Stations and individuals are asked for a montage of six minutes of the best show or work. This is an opportunity to show off the best work of radio and for people to work at producing the best.  It has been rewarding for me to see the improvement in the standard of submissions. The quality is very good,” he says.


The judges are chosen from a pool of respected individuals who have great experience in radio and marketing. The likes of Koos Radebe, Zandile Nzalo and Kate Turkington are included in a list of about 33 judges.  


“We invite nominations for judges and we welcome suggestions.  We have a wide age range from all spectrums and we are inclusive.  And it is very important that we don’t allow any conflict of interest. Greg Maloka won’t judge a commercial station or a competitor for instance,” Rothschild explains. And it’s one way to ensure credibility in the adjudication system, which is set up to preclude the judges from scoring any stations within their category – either their own or their competitors.


The methodology used averages out the scores based on the number of scores submitted, helping to maintain fairness. Rothschild says the criteria used for judging looks at: content of submission; the presentation and style; the value to the listener and the production.


Talking about what the MTN Radio Awards have revealed to him about the industry he says, “We have a broad radio culture in South Africa. I believe there’s still a lot more room for more stations to accommodate talent. We are cynical about our talent when we have brilliant broadcasters with brilliant programming.  Radio adapts. And with a lot of changes that came with the technology age, I have seen a lot of innovation in radio in this country.”


He maintains the MTN Radio Awards are an ongoing programme in progress, with a high value for the radio industry.      





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Radio made the TV star: a chat with T-Bose

Posted by radio On March - 18 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By:Kagiso Mnisi]

Long narrative scribe, Bongani Madondo, gives enviably succinct accounts when interviewing two stalwarts of radio namely John Pearlman and Bob Mabena in his book Hot Type. Madondo’s paints a masterpiece of the elusive aesthetic that the two possess in ample serving. And that is to play the devil’s advocate and provocateurs without leaving a listener cringing. A listen to another, Thabo Mokwele, is an across-the-divide yet still similar example. On his Kaya FM mid-morning show Best ‘T’ in the City,  Mokwele has tread our bedroom aisles and the occasional glimpse into the closet whose door we only open slightly ajar, far from any prying eyes. All without being overzealous or being cheap. The Best ‘T’ lets us in on a bit of tasteful mischief and his dips and dabbles between stations, Radio On TV and education.



Tell more about your varying experiences between radio and TV [radio on

We managed to translate successfully radio on TV…that was groundbreaking and after 2 seasons on air, SABC followed suit. Like they say Imitation is the best compliment. We knew we had a great formula. It is still the game changing concept. We are currently on repeats on Mzansi Music; maybe Safta ’13 nominations will awaken the budget committee to renew the contract. 


You studied Chemical Engineering, what made you swap Thermodynamics and bunsen burners for radio?

Kwaaaa…Music is a passion of mine and playing it all by myself made no sense.
Everytime I wanted to listen to my own CDs during my internship and would yearn for company. I saw it then that I better pursue this career, it gave me a joy beyond measure. And I have a thing for people, I love listening to people’s views about things. So the need to share music and interact with people is the driving force behind my passion for radio.


As one of the jocks that made a name for themselves on Y-FM, do you lament the current sentiments about how the youth station has lost its
vice or do you see it as the natural order of things in the media space?

Times change and so do people, it was easy for us to craft the youth radio DNA, it was
the first ever in this country, no benchmark, we pushed the boundaries of what was ‘set’ radio norms and we broke them. It was a revolution. Yes the station has lost its spark, it needs a radical visionary to bring that youth edge back.
The JuJu effect, the no fear no favour but respectful edge, the soundtrack of the streets and the urban suave are some of the ingredients that will make YFM shine again.


Your show on Kaya FM delves into subjects that aren’t otherwise treated with the necessary wit elsewhere. These subjects sometimes teeter on
risque. How do you keep the listener tuned in no matter the uncomfortable the topic is?

My listener can sense that I respect them. That is the first thing. Am on air because of them, I am because they are.
Whatever I prepare is a reflection of the lives, one or the other. Yet sometimes I shake their cocoons so that they can have a different perspective about something.
I observe and listen a lot of what they say and do, and take that on air, in a way that will make compelling radio. 


How would you describe your personal journey during Metro FM days?

My university not only in radio but in personal development. SABC is a jungle; it is the survival of the fittest. You are on your own, and that taught me a lot.
I remember my station manager at the time, when I went to ask for a raise, he rejected my proposal by saying “T-bose this is not a job, but a ladder to greater things.” That’s the best advice he ever gave me. I then woke up from my comfort zone, hence the CD compilations I released and other business opportunities that arose from that.


Notice that you have an active blog, what are its benefits in extending conversations beyond your show?

Like I said I observe a lot, call me a closet philosopher, and I have been a student of life. Thus I have a lot to say beyond my radio program. Hence I blog my thoughts about life and its mystery. These are my thoughts about what I perceive to be the way to approach this gift of life.


What other entrepreneurial ventures are you involved in?

I have dabbled in a few ventures but I since left them. Radio is my business.


Which personality do you think has cracked the code of ‘entertaining
radio’ currently?

I have a few favorites that when I listen to their shows I can’t help but be a fan, Kaya FM is pregnant with those from weekday to weekends but outside my station Amon Mokoena and David Mashabela are the future of radio.

What has stuck out as the most memorable show for you this year?

Too many to mention, what I love the most is when my listener calls and gives their opinion on issues. I’m left in stitches most times, they are funny.

The powers that be are hell-bent on making education an essential service, what are your thoughts on that considering you experiences as
someone who went on to pursue Chemical Engineering at varsity?

But context in this matter is important, disruptions in basic education for months on end because of teachers and service delivery strikes. It is unforgivable; hence the call to make an essential service the future of our country depends on the education level of our children. We can’t over emphasize how important education is to the future and development of our country. The president must win our hearts but enforcing this as a matter of urgency. Otherwise we are in trouble. We must go back to a state when a kid is seen on the streets during schooling hours must be arrested. This will send the message home about how important education is. Parents have also abdicated their responsibilities regarding their role in the success of their own kids. We over rely on government. That must come to an end. They are in power because we placed them there; if they do not deliver we must deprive them of the power. We must own our destiny and not give away. 


What genuine role do you think radio can play in education beyond the generic ‘infotainment’?

It is already playing that role beyond what a class room can teach. Radio is that neighbour that has access to people and market, and has a very powerful voice that speaks to multitudes. This must thus be used responsibly to keep the nation above the national averages of competences. 






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Heard about a job: What role is radio playing?

Posted by radio On March - 12 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kagiso Mnisi]


In the recent budget speech Pravin Gordhan without a flinch let slip that “the world economy is improving, though the outlook remains troubled.” This troubled outlook is crystal clear especially in the job creation side of things. The radio industry like any other sector has been hit hard with brands spending less on advertising space because of the precariousness of the markets. However analysts and futurists dub our generation as one that exists in the throes of a knowledge economy where connectivity and cross pollination of information is currency. Radio has had to immerse itself in this mix and be the conduit to opportunity creation albeit the chorus to tighten our belts and innovate. Needless to say the department of labour gave incomprehensible excuses why an exact figure could not be given on jobs created by the radio sector to this scribe, the deduction is evident from emerging patterns that the medium has been gradually playing its part.


The state of affairs has resulted in local radio calibrating its processes to shoulder the burden of job scarcity but with very modest waywardness. According to Franz Kruger, Professor and director of Wits Radio Academy, “a lot of these positions are not real jobs; they range from completely voluntary, to posts where people are paid when there is money.” He further says, “even where people are paid, the amounts are often very low. However, they do represent an opportunity – lots of people use them as the first step into the more formal radio sector”


Many an analysts have ranted in columns about how integration through online platforms is the way to go for radio and the industry is taking heed and hence a flurry of offshoot opportunities created. Some of these include:


  • Website analytics
  • Internet website advertising
  • Video and audio streaming
  • Podcasting
  • Digital reputation
  • Search engine optimization
  • CSI



Franz Kruger accounts this revolution on the basis that “many radio stations are building a presence on the web and in social media, and this often means they need specialists working in this area.” An example he punts is how “Primedia’s Eyewitness News has created new jobs around their website, for instance.” Kruger extrapolates and say, “of course, there is also a need for people to service the new equipment stations are putting in. At the same time, the new technologies are increasing the demands on existing staff, in that they are expected to do more.”


Delivery of a service using contemporary marketing tools has grown to be non negotiable in the world of radio. As Charlie Wennell points out “case studies have shown that data tracking is a crucial element to planning a successful radio campaign and in the absence of direct response measured against each station (such as a dedicated SMS line), post campaign analysis.” Wennell as radio marketing fundi herself says, “media owners need to provide advertisers with recordings of on air moments, SMS stats and any other feedback that could build a post campaign.”


Lower down below community radio, by its nature, does not access much advertising and other forms of financing, but plays a crucial part of the South African broadcasting landscape, providing diversity for listeners and much-needed skills for the commercial radio sector. Stations such as Jozi FM have been known to have young business people in Soweto given space on air to market their ventures. In mainstream echelons, Talk Radio 702’s Gushwell Brookes and Bruce Whitfield have also had features where CEO’s were thrown the gauntlet live on air to hear out pleas of the jobless and in turn provide them with employment.


A cue taken from the global economic situation maybe that jobs are few and far between but that only gives premise to invent environments that will bolster market activity. Pravin’s stern stance of times being tough is a chance for sectors such as radio to find creative means that will keep the fires burning. And that is to innovate amid this knowledge economy.







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Q&A with SAfm’s Xolani Gwala

Posted by radio On March - 11 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kgomotso Moncho]


The name Xolani Gwala associates itself with respect and authority when it comes to the News, Current Affairs and the Talk Radio spheres. Gwala is a man of a few words and he admits to not being particularly good at being interviewed, although he conducts interviews diligently in his vocation.  It’s his work and professionalism that do the talking for him. He is currently employed by the SABC as the host of the Morning Drive Time show, AM Live on SAFM.

In 2008 he was appointed the news editor and anchor for RAMfm broadcasting in the West Bank and Israel in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2008 he hosted SAFM’s mid-morning daily talk show, Morning Talk with Xolani Gwala.

During that time he was also a host of Asikhulume/Let’s Talk, a one hour Nguni/English weekly current affairs show on SABC 1 which helped elevate his profile to a wider audience. He also freelanced as a Zulu newsreader on SABC 1 as well as a stand by presenter for SABC 2’s English Breakfast Show, Morning Live.

He joined the TV English news desk as a writer and news anchor in 2002 and worked on SABC 3’s current affairs programme, News Hour as a co-anchor. 

In June 1998 he joined P4 Radio, (now known as Gagasi FM) in Durban as a senior journalist and English news anchor. From 1995 to 1998 he joined the SABC newsroom as a news reporter and Ukhozi FM news reader.  He worked for Radio 702 as a freelance news anchor and reporter in November 1998. He later became Ukhozi’s current affairs producer and anchor and Lotus FM’s current affairs producer.  

With a few words, he lets us into his world.


Please tell us where you grew up in KZN, what your childhood was like and how that influenced your career choice?

I grew up in a place called Impendle, about 50 to 60 kilometres outside Pietermaritzburg. As in all rural areas of this country, at that time in particular, and to a large extent even now, I grew up in a sea of poverty and underdevelopment. In that environment, you don’t even have the luxury of an informed career choice. Actually, it was only when I moved to a Catholic boarding school, St Mary’s Seminary in Ixopo that I got to know about things such as journalism.


How did it all start for you?

I started in earnest at the then Natal Technikon, now Durban University of Technology. I was doing Media Studies there and started frequenting campus radio doing bits and pieces there. That’s when I really thought, it was possible.


What tools and lessons did you pick up in your early work in KZN that you still apply in your work now?

I suppose it was at that point that I learnt to work hard to be diligent.


What is your work ethic?

Hard work and professionalism. I have no time for people who have no respect for what they do.


What does it take to be a successful news anchor/talk show host like yourself?

I’m glad you think I’m successful. But my job requires commitment, passion, professionalism and hard work. I love it.


What appeals to you about the news/current affairs and politics beat?

The possibility of making a difference in my world.


Which do you prefer, Radio or Televison and Why?

Radio. I just love it more.


Did you welcome the wider recognition that came with Asikhulume?

For me it was an opportunity to do what I do in a different platform. Nothing more, nothing less.


How do you deal with bad publicity?

I suppose it comes with the territory.


What are the highlights of your career thus far?

I suppose, my work in the Middle East was one of those.  It was an amazing experience. I would do it all over again if I could. But in truth, every show is so different that everyday is an experience.


What can go wrong and how do you deal with that?

A lot can go wrong with live news and talk radio such as guests not pitching up or guests using foul language or exhibiting unacceptable behaviour. There are also technical difficulties of all sorts. The point is you never rest until your show is over.


What’s a typical day like for you?

I’m up at  3am every morning, at work by 4am. There’s two hours of preparation. The show goes on the air between 6am and 9am. Thereafter there are post- show meetings and other engagements usually until about late afternoon. I put in two hours or so of gym. Then there’s dinner and lots of reading for the following day…and sleeping around 10 pm.


Besides news, what other things pique your mind?

I love the word, spoken and written. I love cinema and theatre. I love the arts. I’m fascinated by the world.


What kind of music/books are you into?

I read all kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction. And I’m a hip hop head! And other music of course.

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All too known story of interns

Posted by radio On March - 4 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kagiso Mnisi]

The recent downturn had with it a sweep of job losses the world over as well as an upsurge in companies not recruiting new graduates. The Washingtonian highlights this with staggering accounts of graduates, dubbed ‘permaterns’, who leap from one internship to the other because they cannot be retained long term. The local radios pace has been not averse to scourge itself with only a handful of stations having visible structures most to facilitate the bridge from higher learning to the workplace. The Y-Academy as the most recognised beacon of light- is one where a six month internship programme is offered for participants to learn about varying aspects of radio. This drive involves a call up for those interested to register and result being a call to a few that make the cut. Save for the woes of the economic climate, what else is done to stimulate growth through work force across the board so that there is sustainability? From a personal experience, very little.


An anecdote from my not so distant past had me applying for an internship at a news department of a talk radio wedged somewhere in in the high rises of Sandton. Good enough, one passed the phone litmus test via the stations HR- I had an impressive voice according to the lady. Came the start of my interning, a desk was given to me and hardly five minutes the much dreaded Monday morning editorial meeting was underway. The news items of the day where gone through and whatever follow ups needed to put stories to bed. I was not a stranger to the drill since I had done another week long stint at a paper earlier that same year. What would have any newcomer perplexed was the general lack of interest in the new guy on the floor. No brief or the slightest orientation on how a radio news department functions or even where the cool water urn is. Yes the recesses of one’s mind are screaming ‘show initiative’ at that moment but where does a new urchin start when he is far from confident about drafting a news bulletin or stepping into the editors office to ask about microphone technique.


This beckoned the question: are new graduates given the right tools to survive or are they left to speculate and at that do poorly so as to retain the appeal of already existing radio personalities? If audience retention and expansion are any indicators, it is a no-brainier what the answer to that is. The lack of legitimate training is one congruent to the concerns highlighted in JP Morgan’s SMME Development paper which states that “the country is significantly lacking in the delivery of high quality Business Development Services (BDS) to accompany technical skills development and access to finance for emerging business people.”


In the media environment skills such as interpersonal conflict awareness/resolution, content development, market relevant material and business administration skills are few and far between. The odd media school module only just scrapes the surface on these and their delivery is often not satisfactory. A step into the cauldron by a graduate without these skills is perpetual of the cycle of ‘permaternship’ from company to company because of shortage in the know how. And the obvious intervention by newsrooms and radio stations would be a needs assessment and orientation based on these important pillars.



Another of the hindrances evident in newsrooms is the second language dynamic. That a student did not mind their P’s and Q’s their entire lives using the English medium should be taken into account. Truth is editors would like to wish it away to the point of doing a disservice to their organisation and the new graduate. Media practitioners new on the job should be coached in writing for the web, print and broadcast.


And that are some of the things I wish had been taught as an intern and I believe so many others hopping from one place of employment to next in search of the holy grail of permanence and job security.

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Mbuli’s Lukewarm Mic at SAFM

Posted by radio On February - 28 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

[By: Kagiso Mnisi]


An hour into SAFM’s Morning Talk between 09am-12pm weekdays,  host Vuyo Mbuli prompts listeners to call in with positive stories, which in talk radio territory is a rarity. What follows via a Facebook response is: “how can you talk positively when there aren’t positives for the majority of the people,” a seemingly bewildered listener replied. A tight rope walk by the presenter given the climate of perpetual violence in the country, an uninspiring SONA13 and a call for political game change by Agang and other opposition. Mbuli’s sunshine-like anchorage is what is to be expected of an interim presenter, he is holding the fort until a suitable replacement is found after Siki Mgabadeli’s departure. SAFM’s specs punts Morning Talk to be a one stop shop where “newsmakers and guest experts offer their insights and perspectives into the national and global discourse on a myriad of issues.”


If full circles are anything to go by, Mbuli’s radio career started at SAFM in 1995, which subsequently paved way for other accomplishments such as hosting Morning Live on SABC 2 and public speaking ventures. However his return to the stations comes at a time when SAFM’s editorial independence is being questioned across the media spectrum. After Mgabadeli’s show was cut in the run up to the ruling party’s elective conference, the general sentiment is that the station dances to the state’s fiddle.


SAFM commands a listenership of 550 000 and Mbuli’s show is said to “navigate the minefield of legislations and codes of practice, to give listeners news they can use” to appease this mix. But typical of the media machine ‘flavours of the month’ have shorter lifespans than moths, where you can be the ‘in’ for a while and before you know it much more colourful wunderkids such as Eusebius Mckaiser have trumped you.


A listen to Morning Talk has all the niceties of talk where listeners can call in with whatever they deem pressing on the day. It also features corporate relations where organisations are warranted space to divulge their latest maneuverings. A tit bit of on this morning (20th February 2013) just happens to be Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition, where an open call is made to University students to have a go at the budget speech. This lends the show a collaborative /crowdsourcing clout where issues affecting society are concerned.


If read into, Mbuli’s presence at SAFM does not smack of any major overhaul but rather a case of the station filling a gap with an experienced host. The move falls short of a seismic shift appeal when for instance compared to recent changes implemented at Talk Radio 702. The crux is that Mbuli is temporarily warming the mic and if taken permanently, even that won’t warrant a must-tune-in for listeners.


Lead so that we can listen


Thought leadership has given dynamism to so many industries across the sphere. A chef in Accra is able to relate insightful experiences about Ghana’s culinary heritage to people all over the world through the right positioning devices. Advice equates to commerce! To a certain degree local radio has also enjoyed the play of thought leadership, SAFM in itself has Business and Arts SA’s CEO, Michelle Constant, presenting a show on developmental issues in the arts. Others thought leaders include Ashraf Garda with a gaze on South African media matters. In this light a clear craft of a niche which takes context and needs into account can benefit Mbuli’s current campaign at SAFM. The range of issues tackled on Morning Talk are vast but with a singular arrow head in the form of a feature, the show can be top of mind. It all boils down to the clichéd business speak of recognizing opportunity. The same old does not cut it for modern day radio. With a country clearly going through puberty. South Africa has a lot of issue based narratives. Pick one as a flagship feature and start advocating Mr. Mbuli, a long time in the media space warrants you that.


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