In July, the radio industry welcomed a new kid on the commercial radio block with new (mostly) talk radio station, Power FM. It has just celebrated 100 days on air.
Let’s reflect on how this all came to be. ICASA issued primary market broadcasting licenses for Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. But it was the Gauteng license, as expected, that would be fiercely contested. And fiercely contested it was, “…gloves are off…”, as Julius Malema would say.
MSG Afrika came out tops, knocking the big guys out. Some left with very little teeth left after taking into account you apply with a non-refundable R70 000 for a commercial license on top of investment in consultants and research. Losing hits you hard in all sorts of ways.
I, for one, am happy our media industry is diversifying and becoming more competitive. It’s good for the industry as well as having obvious benefits like employment opportunities and contribution to the economy.
Power FM was the last to launch, after Vuma 103FM in Durban and Smile 90.4 in Cape Town. I don’t know if this was a strategy because they were the most talked about nationwide.
Power FM has a good and solid programming format. I’ve noticed that their advertising spots play at about 23, 43 and 53 there about. I took some time thinking about this. I wouldn’t know their strategy and no one would share their trade secrets with anyone but I could think of one or two benefits.
If you take into account that you only need a person to listen to the radio for 15 minutes to be counted as having listened in terms of RAMS, this would count in their favour. Although advertisers won’t like to hear this, listeners generally don’t like listening to advertisements but they stick it out.
In the context of talk radio were there is great content. I found their station ID and overall sounds quality professional but just found the news jingle sounding a bit uncomfortable.
I started off listening to Azania, because I love her and what she does. She is on from 12pm to 3pm weekdays. She sounds so in control and has a well-produced programme. I’m also glad they didn’t package her programme as a woman’s programme, similar to the one she did at her former radio station.
I found their daytime line up to be very topical and discussion orientated. It is logical to engage listeners and go in depth about issues and topics but it can sometimes be tedious after an hour or so, this discussing of one topic. What if I’m not interested at all in the subject of rat infestations, for example? Wouldn’t it be better to create one or two features or so in the hour even if it’s one at the bottom of the hour to bridge into the final hour of the programme? Just a humble suggestion. Respect to Power FM for having a woman in their daytime line up in this male dominated industry.
I had a go at Thabiso Tema, who hosts the afternoon drive form 3pm to 5pm weekdays. Thabiso is a talented broadcaster and I was very impressed with how well prepared the programme is. Thabiso is known to be an opinionated broadcaster who at times can rattle some cages. A great choice for the daytime line up.
The drive show is followed by a business programme from 5pm to 7pm. I didn’t listen to the programme, mainly because it isn’t my kind of thing. Gauteng has now three different business shows on Power FM, Kaya FM and 702 round about the same time. So only time will tell what will give Power FM the edge. The difference, though, is they have the seasoned Siki Mgabadeli doing their business programme. And I love that a woman is doing business, and not some cooking programme or dishing out marital advice. Respect. We need more of this.
I tuned in about after 10pm realised like their direct competitors,Power FM has news bulletins right through the night. I also gathered their night time radio is more informative as opposed to the topical discussions that take place during the day. They discussed media advertising and the guest was clearly an expert and the presenter clearly well informed about the subject. I would have loved to hear some of this kind of stuff during the day as it is very valuable content.
Tim Modise hosts the breakfast show and the man still has it in him. He is still so professional and doesn’t seem to fear asking tough questions, which are often avoided. One can only imagine the work that goes on behind the scenes in preparing for this programme. They don’t just cover the story but go right inside it. Modise interviewed Cosatu’s president and the minister of police. It made me wonder: how would 702 cover the same story and who would they speak to? Do some prefer to be interviewed by Power FMas opposed to 702? Or does this mean producers with strong relationships with officials and sources get the people on air first?
I’m a little concerned that we lack new voices in radio and that we might end up with a vacuum because we keep recycling the same presenters. I hope this will change although I’m not suggesting we cut short successful careers. We do need plan for the future of radio as well.
MSG Afrika, together with its consortium, have done very well for themselves and proved they deserved to win the broadcasting license. Bob Mabena once said something powerful about Kaya FM back in 1997 when they were awarded their license: that because it’s a black owned business it’s expected to fail and they cannot afford that. Kaya FM paved the way for Power FM today and showed us for over a decade that it can be don. It probably helps that Power FM has employed the former Kaya FM station manager who was part of Kaya FM when it had its first profitable year.
Here is to a new sunrise to dawn the South African radio landscape. Power FM, now we’re talking.