[COMMENT] March and April for radio freelancers is always a tenuous time as it is when many stations re-look, revitalise, re-launch and possibly don’t re-new freelance contracts.
The relationship between broadcaster and freelancer is like a love affair. Plenty of nervousness, edginess, double guessing, heated passion, fantastic gifts, loaded conversations, wonderful weekends away and empty promises. Love affairs work if both parties understand that it is not a forever game and that it could end at any time, but that it should be enjoyed while it lasts.
The great thing about a freelance contract is that it has a date on it, you already know when your potential break-up is scheduled for.
When freelance contracts are renewed so many times, the love affair basically becomes a civil union. When the love affair ends, there is very often nothing civil about it. The relationship is a use/use and it seems to work for both parties. I do believe there is a case to be made by an astute freelancer in the legal space to argue the nature of employment and their employment status. There are far too many freelancers that have operated in the same role at the same station for many t(y)ears and are basically full-time staff.
Astute presenters who have creative ability and industry acumen are continually looking for opportunity, pitching ideas and making it happen. They are generally less concerned when love affairs end, as they are creatives engaged in multiple relationships in a consequence free environment.
In my opinion, the radio business is fuelled by far too much ego and not enough creativity on the air. How often do we get to listen to the self-importance of presenters and teams delivering buckets loads of inside jokes, personal endorsements, internet delivered ideas and the “me me me me , I I I I” factor? I’m bored to a point beyond tears.
On-air talent require management
In my opinion, great on-air talent require management. Not the noun, the verb. You need to work with them; share ideas, fears, aspirations, potential, future thinking and station strategy. Great on-air talent will challenge you, they will question you, the will call you out, they will fly in the face of advice and, when crunch time comes, they will support you and they will be great. It will not always be easy; love affairs require management. From the outside it’s always easy to pass judgement on other relationships but there are nuances that are only known within the relationship.
From previous blog posts it is clear that I am often critical about SABC Radio management, or the lack thereof. I am also quite comfortable to call out talent when I think they are out of line. The reports from people on the ground at Good Hope FM (SABC Cape Town) as well as subsequent press regarding the axing of Nigel Pierce got me thinking.
There hasn’t been any official word from Good Hope management, but I am pretty sure it was messy at best. But it doesn’t matter, the love affair was scheduled to end on 31 March 2019, so it’s irrelevant how poorly it was managed. Good Hope is, however, in several relationships, so they won’t be lonely. It’s Pierce I’m wondering about. We’ve all heard the crazy ex stories, is this one of those?
In a series of Instagram posts (the first in a long while), Pierce launches into a diatribe wearing sunglasses. Understanding that this is his personal page, it is completely up to him how he engages on this platform. It is clear that Pierce hasn’t leveraged this platform effectively in the time he has had it, which is a bit disappointing as digital conversations can be led on the back end of content executed on radio.
With all the weekly airtime at Good Hope FM, nothing ever translated onto his Instagram or Twitter. Not sure why, but I suspect it may have been too much hard work; he wouldn’t be the first not to bother. It’s a pity, because if you see how many times this last series of videos has been viewed there is clearly an appetite for The Radio Police.
Time to say goodbye
Why is it that we always wait for the love affair to end before we speak about the problems that led to the eventual split? Stations running at a loss, too much talk, too little talk, under performance by 90%. Where is marketing, why don’t you support me more, you never said anything, you never sent your prep, you never asked for my prep, I was never your first choice, you never actually loved me.
Once a relationship has got to this point, feelings are hurt, and egos are bruised. Radio managers need to be especially careful to realise they don’t need to bring an ego in a contracting room. I have been in talent meetings where the station manager has delivered more ego than a locker room full of teenagers spraying deodorant; it’s embarrassing. Level-headed, strategic programming decisions dictate line-up changes.
It’s equally embarrassing to watch talent spiral in meetings and social media with a ‘woe is me’ attitude. In today’s landscape there is more opportunity than ever before to go out, aggregate audience and deliver great content. Why waste time crying? Make content and audiences will come, especially if you’ve been afforded the opportunity to build a brand on a traditional platform for years.
Stations will let talent go at a point or visa versa. The great content and personality contributors whose contracts I never renewed or who never signed what was offered, all found themselves in new positions, with new challenges and opportunities. The one love affair ended and the next started.
Keep your conspiracy theories, dirty laundry, giga-pics and love disappointments. Don’t become disgruntled because you never did the breaking up. These relationships end but don’t let your ego affect your chance for another casual fling.
If you want to dispense advice, offer insight, air-check and share your thoughts and uncover the rot, become a consultant. Better yet I believe MFM in Stellenbosch are interviewing for a programme manager.
Till then, let’s play another song. This is, “It’s time to say goodbye”.
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