Radio Sonder Grense was known to attract older, more traditional Afrikaners, but apparently things have changed. Charles Leonard, who now has a funky music slot on the station, is testimony to this.
This was about a month ago and I had just told her that my new 13-week series on modern African music, Radio Afrika, was about to start on the SABC’s Afrikaans public service radio station, Radio Sonder Grense (RSG).
It was not my first outing on RSG’s specialist music slot on a Monday night. Last year I did a reggae show (Dreadlock Draadloos) in the same slot that has also brought hip-hop, jazz, punk, world music and so on to RSG listeners.
Nicky Blumenfeld and Richard Mwamba have been playing world and African music on Kaya FM and SAfm respectively for a while now. But RSG unleashing a known old lefty like me every week taking the volk’s ears on a weekly trip to every corner of our continent, playing exotic genres like Afrobeat, Ethiojazz, Benga and Highlife?
I am my own harshest critic, and I don’t think it is give-up-the-day-job brilliant, but also not you’ve-got-a-voice-for-print bad either.
I do think it has to do with the fact that RSG loudly celebrates and literally broadcasts the fact that Afrikaans is a language liberated – the majority of people using the language are not white, and they come from all classes and backgrounds. The station has long shaken off its historical image as the station of choice for old Broeders (and their tannie wives). These days the ruling elite no longer listens to Afrikaans radio, which allows RSG to live up to its public service mandate unhindered.
But don’t take my word for it. RSG’s station manager Magdaleen Krüger describes the RSG target market as the modern, progressive Afrikaans-speaking and understanding community. It seeks to attract forward-thinking Afrikaans-speaking or -understanding people between the ages of 35-49, from the upper LSMs (7-10).
She says RSG listeners are well informed and open to learning new things. They seize opportunities, aim for success and get involved in projects to bring about positive change. They are serious about their image, style and well-being. Their language is very important to them and family, religion, development and empowerment are their core, she says.
“RSG is riding a wave crest: its 1.917-million listeners (Radio Audience Measurement Survey, February 2014) being the highest recorded for RSG (in) the past couple of years. It is evident that RSG reaches its target market: everyone who understands Afrikaans.”
Krüger says that Afrikaans music and information programming are the station’s driving force.
“Our listeners are unique in their heritage and are part of a broader South African identity who want to be inspired.”
She says RSG is a hybrid of traditional public service programmes and commercial shows. “The daylight programming has more music, and is more personality-driven and commercially-inclined… that’s when you make money to be able to do pure public service broadcasting (PBS) in the evening.”
The music is also a hybrid of commercial, popular playlist with an emphasis on adult contemporary feel-good /sing-a-long, in addition to specialist music programmes on opera, classical, jazz, rap, hip hop, country, World music, langarm dance, gospel and big bands. There’s an emphasis on local music, especially Afrikaans.
“The challenge of PBS is to cater and satisfy from cradle to grave. You cannot only zoom in on a specific audience, specific music, like commercial radio stations do. On the other hand, PBS can do what commercial stations cannot easily do: drama, documentary, poetry, literature, specialist music, informational programmes like legal, finance, pets, children, health, religion, etcetera.”
Krüger says that RSG’s biggest challenges are staying relevant; integrating digital media with traditional radio; producing unique and compelling content; and appealing to a wide spectrum of people who understand Afrikaans.
So, then RSG is not a station for tannies?
“Ja, RSG is a station for tannies, but also for ooms and teenagers,” she says. “RSG is for weirdos, liberals and the open-minded… and for the religious and the atheists, the bold and the beautiful, the good, the bad and the ugly, the rich and the poor.
That’s a tall order, but that’s what distinguishes it from commercial, community and private radio stations. That’s the challenge: to be relevant to all these groups and to entertain, inform and empower all of them… and in the process, to try your very best to satisfy all, but not all the time!
“Our current slogan, ‘RSG, jy sal jou ore nie glo nie!’ (you won’t believe your ears) is very descriptive of RSG. We’ve got a wide variety, we push the boundaries, we are at the forefront in terms of public radio, but unfortunately the public do not always know about it, because we don’t have the means and budget to market and advertise to the sceptics and potential audiences out there.”
Charles Leonard is news editor at the Mail & Guardian. His RSG programme, Radio Afrika, is on air on Monday nights. Follow him on @JCharlesLeonard
This story was first published in the June 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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