[By: Abongile Zizi]
As an integral part of communication, language in radio plays a vital role in how the station communicates with its listeners and how the audience interacts with the station.
Throughout the years, South Africa has become a melting pot of diversity; different groups of people with different languages share the same spaces and interact with each other on a daily basis. In dealing with language, certain stations like Umhlobo Wenene in the Eastern Cape broadcast exclusively in IsiXhosa, Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) broadcasts in Afrikaans while SAFM broadcasts in English. Many radio stations have this formula; where one language is dominant over any other language that may be used during broadcast. Some stations use a single language exclusively as the broadcast language.
A lot of youth stations and campus radio stations have a different approach to the language rules of radio using slang and a mixture of languages TruFM in the Eastern Cape prides itself in being “like no one else” broadcasting in both isiXhosa and English. The station’s target audience comprises of the listeners between the ages of 16-24 and the 25-34 groups.
Gagasi FM, KZN’s biggest regional station also has its own brand of language mix branded “zunglish” this is a mixture of Isizulu and English. It is the only bilingual commercial radio station in Kwa Zulu Natal targeting 18-34 year old listeners. The move towards a language blend in radio is indicative of the blurring line between languages in the 16-34 year old age group. The biggest consumers of media and technology in the country belong to this very group and stations targeting them are having to find new ways to engage with this perceptive bunch. Aside from social networking and hosting events, stations are also using language in order to further appeal to the audience.
Branding itself as a lifestyle, YFM is a youth station that has branded itself as the station that runs GP. As a youth station, YFM has positioned itself as an authority on youth culture. Looking at the youth of Gauteng, YFM uses more than language and social media to communicate their brand and connect with their audiences. Providing a platform for up and coming artist, playing the latest music and delivering news that are relevant to their target audience, the YFM brand has a mass appeal to the youth. According to the latest SAARF RAMS, YFM has an average listenership of 513 000 listeners weekly. RAMS are not the only signifiers of appeal and popularity and as of the 2nd of December this year, the station has 52759 twitter followers and 118239 likes on Facebook. These numbers change on a daily basis. YFM’s social media accounts are highly active with audiences interacting with the station on a daily basis.
Language is the cornerstone of radio as it sets the tone for interaction with audiences and communicates the brand for the station. Appealing to the youth and urban adults is becoming increasingly hard as this group of listeners is constantly changing and broad.
Looking at social media usage and how the youth use these platforms to communicate their identity, radio stations targeting this group are always faced with the challenge of change and need to constantly be dynamic in their approach to delivering content. Delivering economic indicators during broadcasts, YFM listeners are treated to a different experience, these figures are delivered using burger prices! For example, a burger is R19.95 Jozi; the same burger would cost you R31.98 in New York City, R29.08 in London and R33.72 in Paris. This is how YFM audiences are made aware of the exchange rate.
The adaptation of content to suit the target market is a solid marketing principle that is used universally in order to sell goods or services. The use of a language mix in radio targeting the urban youth and adult market is one way that stations are guaranteeing they speak their audiences’ language.