Youth fetish guts African radio

2009-11-20 11:54

THERE is nothing for Kaya FM to celebrate concerning the early ­retirement of veteran DJ and show ­anchor Lawrence Dube.

I was greatly disappointed to learn that the station had embarked on a self-marketing drive by highlighting and celebrating the loss of this talented, experienced and visionary broadcaster.

Those who have followed developments and trends in broadcasting will appreciate the pioneering role that the likes of Dube, Tim Modise, Shado Twala and Tebogo Matima, to name a few, have played in giving character to black radio. Now we are expected to applaud when Dube decides to go sit on a stoep somewhere doing very little when the country still needs his experience, knowledge and passion.

Why should the African community celebrate when the broadcasting sector is bleeding talent to the point of death? What kind of vision and leadership are we demonstrating by letting Dube – who is not even 50 years of age – retire?

I guess we are expected to believe that 26 years in ­radio supposedly makes Dube a dinosaur and so must make way for fresh young talent.

But this overemphasis on youth has resulted in the juniorisation of talent in our media and corporate sectors. African radio today is to a large extent full of sound and twang that signifies nothing in terms of content and substance.

If you listen to veteran media practitioner David Gleason at Classic FM or John Robbie at Radio 702 you understand why the white community appreciates and honours experience and skill.

Gleason, in particular, brings history, expertise, insight, stature and connection with what has gone before in white broadcasting. But when it comes to African broadcasting there is this obsession with youth. People become overcelebrated superachievers by the time they turn 30.

If we want historical continuity, richness, depth and profundity in our media we must question early retirement decisions that deprive the nation of intellectual nourishment.

Dube, Modise, Twala, Matima and many like them are professionals who have served this nation with passion, integrity and selflessness. In fact, the values they have brought to radio have made it more of a vocation than a ­profession.

At the moment African broadcasting is more of a platform to launch youngsters ­into being over-rated celebrities. Perhaps there should be a story that explains why Dube has to retire when he still has so much to give.

It is okay to give opportunities to the young but it does not achieve much if they walk into an environment that does not connect them with their rich history. There are far too many institutions in the African community that have been denuded of experience, history and talent in the mistaken belief that people must retire early to give chances to the young.

If we want to control the future we must allow men like Dube to linger longer to interact and nourish the present.

It is a well-known saying that people who do not know where they come from can never know where they are ­going.

Memela is a senior marketing manager in the Department of Arts and Culture. He writes in his personal capacity

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