Listeners fight to save Lotus FM

Cape Town – As listenership plunges, an online petition to try and save the SABC’s Lotus FM has now already gathered more than 2 000 signatures and comments to try and save the radio station from the SABC’s “authoritarian imposition.”

The Save Lotus FM Committee is demanding that the SABC immediately scrap its controversial boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s 90% local music edict for the suffering radio station.

Lotus FM, the SABC’s radio station catering to the Indian diaspora for the past 33 years and based in KwaZulu-Natal but available nationally through MultiChoice’s DStv satellite pay-TV platform, has seen its listenership plunge after Motsoeneng suddenly ordered his 90% local content decree.

More than a third of Lotus FM’s readership fled to other commercial and community radio stations where they are able to hear the Indian and Bollywood music hits that they used to tune to Lotus FM which now plays more local urban hits.

"Lotus FM has lost one third of its listenership because it's been asked to play all sorts of music which doesn't resonate with their listeners. Funders have pulled out, advertisers have pulled out and listeners have pulled out," said Krish Naidoo, a former SABC board member.

"The 90% local content decree was never a SABC board decision," said Naidoo.

Scrap 90% local music immediately

Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and convenor of the Save Lotus FM Committee, says “the sudden authoritarian imposition of the 90% local content on SABC radio stations has serious negative implications for minority groups – especially for South Africans of Indian descent, and the commercial sustainability of its designated station, Lotus FM”.

Trikamjee says that “despite representations to explain the specificity of Lotus FM, there has been no relaxation of the rule.”

“As if this was not enough the head of SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng has suggested that the name of Lotus FM should change. While, under intense pressure he has started to change his tune, the danger signs are very clear.”

He says the Save Lotus FM Committee demands that “the name of Lotus FM is retained, the 90% local music content is scrapped immediately, the subtle threats to close Lotus FM is condemned in the strongest possible terms” and that “Lotus FM continue to reflect “the music, culture and lifestyle of the progressive South African Indian community.”

‘The right to not be dictated to by the SABC board’

Thousands of people have already signed the online petition with Devendra Ramanna saying “South Africa is a democracy, not a dictatorship” and Sally Govender saying “I feel we have a right to listen to what we want and not be dictated to by the SABC board.”

“The last three times I tuned to Lotus FM I heard Brenda Fassie, Mafikizolo and Sipho Hotstix. Now while I love their music, there are 11 other SABC radio stations that can and do play their music day and night,” said Eshaana Bapoo. “Looks to me like Hlaudi has found a good way to shut Lotus FM down for good.”

Nimo Jagwanth from Port Elizabeth who also signed the petition said “Hlaudi please do not believe you have the right to thrust entertainment that I do not enjoy down my ears. I would like to know how many of the African stations play Indian music to their select audiences. You have failed to convince anyone of your intentions. Local artists will still not receive the recognition they deserve.”

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