Campus radio in South Africa has produced some of the best radio talent in South African radio and one campus radio in particular sticks out from the rest – Tuks FM in Pretoria. There are few commercial radio stations in the country who don’t have a previous Tuks FM trainee, from the likes of Gareth Cliff, Anele Mdoda, 5FM’s Tim Zunckel and many more.
Tuks FM won Campus Radio station of the year at the 2014 MTN Radio Awards and is said to be the most awarded radio station in the history of the MTN Radio Awards. Being a product of campus radio myself, I am aware of the many challenges facing campus radio stations but there is clearly something the University of Pretoria is doing right with Tuks FM.
I believe there are a few lessons other campus and possibly community radio stations could learn from this successful campus radio station. In my view their three biggest assets is their alumni programme, the quality of their on-air product as well as their ability to consistently produce great talent, both on air and off air, for the radio industry.
The radio station has developed a solid culture among its talent as well as those who have left the radio station of being proud of being part of the radio station a type of pride money cannot buy. As an outsider I will not be able to share how exactly they achieved this but a few things are obvious – they have indoctrinated within the talent at the radio station the notion that it is a privilege to be on radio. The latter brings forth a sense of professionalism amongst the students and hence they continue to bear fruit for generations.
A lot of campus radio stations have produced a lot of talent but generally don’t have a solid alumni community strategy. With a clear strategic alumni community, you have the opportunity to organise mentorship programmes for trainees, there lies the opportunity to host fundraising events for the radio station, building long term relationships with key industry leaders who could spot talent at your radio station and creating the perception that your radio station is the best place to look for talent.
The road hasn’t always been smooth for Tuks FM like any other campus radio station in terms of maintaining a strong on air product but over the years they have identified and studied their audience well. They are the only rock music radio station on FM in South Africa and this niche has worked for them over the years.
Despite having a musically sound and logical programming clock – they have been able to train their presenters to produce and present good quality content and sound on air. South African universities each have their own individual flavour of which a few of campus radio stations can harness their programming strategy from. VOW FM in Johannesburg is a great example of a campus radio station taking the individual characteristics from Wits University with its renowned Journalism department as well as sophisticated student market base – by catering this market with well-produced talk programmes.
There is no doubt having a niche sound and feel could be the best differentiating factor any campus radio station could draw from, as opposed to competing in the market, solely on the stations music rotation playlist of which will always be a losing battle when compared to commercial radio stations.
Some may argue that making campus radio would defeat the whole purpose of training students and to an extend I agree with this school of thought. However campus radio can keep the same talent for only so long before they leave and hence preparing them for the commercial or professional radio industry is pivotal, not only for the campus radio station but for the growth and development of the industry in general.
Finally most campus radio stations focus mainly on training on air presenters but Tuks FM teaches us that there are far more skills development opportunities a lot of campus radio stations could equip their trainees. These stem from on air promotions coordinating, technical, marketing, music playlisting, management and much more.
To limit their success based on the pointers above will be misleading, there is much more this campus radio station is doing right, like their social media engagement strategy which has a strong healthy following, their marketing strategy and financial model. It’s up to those in student affairs leadership at universities to take their campus radio station to the next level – it is after all the voice of the University.
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