A group of community radio stations believe the new Radio Audience Measurement Survey done by TNS for the Broadcast Research Council (BRC) is illegitimate.
“We believe that BRC did their RAMS in Gauteng and guess work on other provinces,” says Nick Motloung, station manager of Madibeng FM 103. “The fact is that I posed a question: Where is Madibeng? They said it’s a village in North West. Clearly that means they don’t know Madibeng is one of the biggest municipalities in North West that has 28 villages, 12 surburbs and a town.”
Motloung claims stations currently not on-air had their audience numbers listed. He canvassed a number of community stations asking them to indicate stations that are off air after asking The Media Connection, the company representing community stations at the BRC, how it was that stations no longer in existence were measured. The Media Connection, in turn, emailed a wide range of community stations asking for input.
Motloung told The Media Connection stations needed proof of findings, saying he couldn’t accept the RAMS results. “We have built the stations and invested in marketing and building a close relationship with our community. Or can we have independent second opinion please. It’s time to voice ourselves regarding to this matter,” he wrote.
And he added, “I see on the list they listed Madibeng FM twice. There are not two Madibeng FMs in North West and there’s no Bojanala FM… How can community stations be viable with such incorrect information that mislead the advertisers? We know our stations and we know our listeners. These RAMS are false.”
A number of stations responded to his call.
- “I also have noticed that the RAMS state that Rock FM 91.9 has 3000 listeners, but they went off air over a year ago.” Abigail Milosevich, MixFM.
- “The RAMS are totally wrong. I don’t agree with them, there are stations which are not even on air but they have listenership. Hahaha this is a joke: Choice FM, Vhembe FM, Vuwani FM and Gy FM are not on air but according to those RAMS they appear to have audience.” Prenomen, GCR FM
- “Med FM in Bloemfontein. I just found it, it came back on air just last week, meaning it was still off air when they were counting RAMs.” Nnyane Keamogetswe
- “Which radio station is that Nnyane? Hilarious stuff indeed.“ Thabang Pusoyabone, Radio Riverside 98.2FM
- “I’m sorry I’m still trying to digest these new RAMs, and I want to understand, how does a station that has been off air since September 2010, have a listenership figure? These RAMs are not ayoba.” Nnyane Keamogetswe
- “It is high time that we attend to these misleading RAMS companies; how dare can these companies say to measure our listenership figures while we are not even involved in the whole process and they can not even present method used? Remember guys some media buyers rely on these misleading figures. Actually they are not taking the sector seriously.”
- “I think who ever say to have released these false figures must present the method used, and again there are stations that are not even on air but listed as if they have got RAMS. This is a joke.” Silence Khumalo, Maputaland Community Radio
Motloung says he and other stations have communicated with BRC, asking them to provide proof of samples. “We raised issues that there are stations which never went on air but they have more listeners than stations which are on air,” he says. “If you Google the stations you can’t even find any… Google is an electronic search engine but it’s doing a better work than BRC,” he claims.
But Clare O’Neil, CEO of the BRC, disputes Motloung’s claims. The BRC has a “highly reputable” research company to carry out the BRC RAM. “TNS are measured themselves by the BRC through rigorous KPI (key performance indicators), on a monthly basis, which ensures all proper research practices are adhered to,” she says.
“Prior to any data release (we have just released the first six months of the survey – the data comes out every three months), the dataset goes through a series of checks, back-checks and validations (by statisticians). TNS have and can validate all the dynamics of this research programme and can stand by the outputs,” O’Neil says.
The annual sample for BRC RAM is 30 000 households, and diaries are placed with all members of the household who agree to participate in the survey, which would result in an annual sample of approximately 75 000 individuals. A sample of 30 000 households is robust enough to be fully representative of the South African population on a National level, O’Neil explains.
“BRC RAM makes use of disproportionate sampling where the sample is spread 60% Metro, 20% Small Urban and 20% Rural. The dataset used to develop the BRC RAM master sampling frame is provided by IHS on an annual basis. IHS are expert demographers, providing comprehensive global market, industry and technical expertise. For BRC RAM, IHS provides up-to-date population estimates and includes the latest boundary information, ensuring ongoing representation, she says. Using the master sampling frame, a stratified multistage sample design is used to draw a sample of 7 500 households per quarter, from 1 875 Small Areas (SAs). The area splits follow the actual population distribution of South Africa by province as provided annually by IHS.
‘The BRC RAM programme is a national study, with a national sample of 30 000 respondents; in order to sample every single small area, municipality and community, the programme would require a sample size of 300 000 respondents, which would cost approximately R200 million per annum; the current BRC RAM research programme, at a sample of 30 000, costs R25 million per annum, which is covered by levy collections from the SABC and commercial radio stations,” says O’Neil.
Community stations don’t contribute to the BRC research fund. “However, the BRC has a member, The Media Connection, who contribute 0.01% towards this research. The Media Connection collect amounts from the community stations they sell for,” she says.
But Motloung isn’t convinced. “We asked the why community radio stations were not consulted when BRC was being formed? When we researched we saw that an NPO was formed and funded by The Media Connection. So this makes it not a fair council for community radio stations. We would rather have a council that we, the community radio stations, elect and not a private company that’s a service provider. You can’t be a player and a referee,” he says.
Motloung says the stations have decided to form their own association that will deal with these issues. “… because we used to have an organisation called National Community Radio Forum, which is dead now. It has failed the community radio stations. We are in a process of forming our own association called South Africa Independent Community Radio Association (SAICRA)”, he says.
BRC RAM, to date (the first six months results were released at end August 2016, the sample is still growing to year sample of 30 000 respondents) has 39 commercial and SABC PBS stations and 297 community stations on the list.
O’Neil says the BRC RAM shows that community stations are in the Top 10 audience share and listening rankings in every single province in South Africa, except Gauteng, which is highly competitive among a mix of SABC public service broadcast stations, SABC commercial stations and commercial broadcast stations.
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