It’s been 20 years since community station Radio Pretoria launched with the intention of broadcasting and “independent Afrikaans radio voice that could serve its audience in a post 1994-South Africa”.
Then, back in 1993, it used obsolete equipment discarded by the SABC and found its voice on a piece of agricultural land, east of Pretoria. Now its network license allows the station to broadcast to an audience in the North Eastern part of South Africa. “Our footprint stretches from Limpopo to the Indian Ocean,” says Willie Spies
This wide spread of transmitters makes Radio Pretoria accessible to an audience of close to two million Afrikaans speaking listeners, and that’s what the station aims to do.
“We have established a strong audience of satellite dish listeners and our estimates are that between 10 000 and 20 000 listeners currently listen to us via satellite. This portion of our audience is a very loyal part of our audience and it is critically important for us to maintain and grow this audience,” Spies says.
With this in mind, the stations has repositioned itself as a “modern but value driven media player”, he says. “We have upgraded our broadcast infrastructure with the investment of more than half a million rand in our existing infrastructure and we’re planning a further infrastructure investment of R4.5 million to be rolled out within the next three years.”
Spies says the station has also undertaken a rebranding exercise to depart from branding that dates back to a previous dispensation
You have made some major infrastructural developments recently in what is a substantial investment R500 000 with another R4.5 million coming up. What have you bought and how have you funded it?
As a community station we had to approach civil institutions within the community we operate in for financial assistance and infrastructural investment. We were happy to find friendly organisations willing to contribute to this exciting enterprise.
You recently rebranded the station. What are your brand pillars and how have they changed since launching in 1994?
In 1994 the station embodied resistance to any change. The message we want to bring across is that we are rejuvenating without alienating our listeners. We therefore foster a culture of change not for the sake of change but for the sake of improvement, growth and success. We want to remain as loyal to our listeners as they are towards us. The image of the radio is one of exiting progress and improvement but remaining faithful to the healthy values that we are used to. We believe that we are succeeding in this regard. We were rewarded at the 2013 MTN Radio awards with the “My Station Award –most loyal listeners”.
Is there enough advertising in Afrikaans to meet the demands of Radio Pretoria’s listeners?
There will never be “enough”. There is always room for improvement. Afrikaans is the third-largest language group in the country (after Isi-Zulu and Isi-Xhosa). Yet, Afrikaans speaking community radio receives a very tiny portion of the total advertising spending by big advertisers. As far as we are concerned the Afrikaans market, if handled correctly, can be the most profiting of all market segments for any business enterprise.
Do you think advertising agencies, in general, ignore what you call the “monetary influence of Afrikaans speakers on the economic landscape’?
To a certain extent yes. Initiatives such as Pendoring contributed largely for the changing perceptions in this regard, but there is still lots to be done. Although Afrikaans speakers only comprises 15% of the South African population, they are responsible for 28% of the total household spending in the country. About 10.6 million South Africans (33% of the population) can speak, read or understand Afrikaans.
Thirty percent of people in the LSM 7-10 are Afrikaans speaking, while 38% of those LSM 8-10 group are also Afrikaans speaking.
Companies that only advertise in English, reach only 10% of Afrikaans speakers in the LSM 8-10 grouping (the highest income group). To ignore the monetary influence of Afrikaans speakers on the economic landscape doesn’t make any sense from a business point of view.
Do you have a dedicated newsroom to deliver you news demands?
Yes, we are one of only a few community station with this capacity. We are planning to extend our capacity and share it with other stations to enable us to convert our newsroom into an income driver.
What is your digital strategy, and how important is it – especially social media – in your offering?
We relaunched our website recently and the “likes” our Facebook page grew by 500% in one year. All our broadcasts are streamed live. We recently received a call from a listener stuck in the traffic in Melbourne, Australia. She listened to us on her iPhone plugged in to to car radio.
What is your feeling about internet radio and its future?
We believe internet radio is the future. The Melbourne example above proved that to us.
To what do you attribute your 7.5% growth and how do you plan to keep growing?
Our strategy of rejuvenation without alienation is key to this. We believe 7,5% is just the beginning. We need to multiply that. At the moment we are getting the fundamentals right and its paying off already.
Can you unpack what you call your “traditional values” and how those are delivered to your audience?
Family values, mutual respect, a love for language and good art, a healthy interest in news and actuality and a commitment to community upliftment.
What is your funding model, and is it adequate? Do you get any support from government?
No support from government. 70% advertising and 30% donations. Advertising needs to become 80% of our income while the rand value of debit order and voluntary donations should be maintained at existing levels. For this to happen our advertising income needs to double. We are getting there.
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