Power FM still has legs – Given Mkhari

2014-06-15 15:00

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Media mogul Given Mkhari has poured cold water on suggestions that his Gauteng radio station Power FM is in financial distress, sinking fast and up for sale.

Rumours are swirling in the media industry that the station, launched amid much fanfare a year ago, is collapsing.

The departure of senior programming and news executives, as well as experienced journalists is not helping the situation, sources say.

But Mkhari has dismissed the talk as coming from “bitter ex-employees who couldn’t get their way”, saying these people were “trying to undermine the powerful story that Power FM is”.

A very public salvo was fired this week when former presenter Chris Vick tweeted: “So disappointing to hear that @Powerfm987 could be sold off soon to a big media conglomerate #endofadream”.

Mkhari called Vick’s claim “rubbish” on Twitter and denied it again during an interview with City Press at MSG Afrika’s Bryanston headquarters yesterday.

He is the chief executive of MSG Afrika, which owns, among other media assets, Power FM and Limpopo’s Capricorn FM.

When the station launched a year ago, it announced a constellation of star on-air presenters, ­behind-the-scenes programmers and top-class journalists in a bid to make the station the best.

But several – among them Vick, Siki Mgabadeli, Asanda Magaqa and McIntosh Polela – have left.

Station manager Ferdinand Mabalane is also gone, as are two different programming managers.

“When we started the station, people came to Power?FM because they liked the idea of what we were doing. Others were frustrated where they were.

“Not everybody who starts with you will finish with you,” a relaxed and jovial Mkhari said yesterday.

“We also could have been impressed by some of them during interviews, only to find that we don’t complement each other.”

He described as “a bunch of lies” allegations that the company is failing to attract a solid listenership, which translates into poor advertising revenue.

The most recent Radio Audience Measurement Survey figures show that Power?FM had about 91?000 listeners at the end of March. This was measured from October last year.

Mkhari pointed out the station’s delayed launch – it was meant to go live in March last year but ran three months behind schedule – should be taken into account to understand its finances.

“This caused us to have an eight months financial year. But our eight-months budget exceeded what we wanted to achieve in 12 months by 120%.

“If you listen to Power, you will realise that banks, cell phone networks, BMW, Chrysler, VW, Audi, BP and Sasol advertise with us. Why would they advertise with a sinking ship?”

Denzil Taylor, the station’s current head of news, is named in a document leaked to City Press as being among those who are unhappy and leaving.

But Taylor told City Press: “I believe in the philosphy and the dream of Given. I’m going nowhere.”

A former Power employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was a “leadership crisis” at the station.

The employee accused Mkhari of making all the decisions and not allowing the programming manager any space.

“It’s not what many of us signed up for. The morale is really low and many senior editorial people have left. The reason why people don’t know about it is because it is not on-air presenters who have left,” the source said.

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