Cape Town – The urban music radio station MetroFM has quietly backtracked on SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s 90% local music decree, and is now playing 50% local music and 50% international music just two weeks after the "radical decision" was announced.
The SABC’s controversial chief operating officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng, spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago and SABC board members have all repeatedly said there won’t be any exceptions for any SABC radio stations and that the move to 90% local music is permament.
MetroFM has however now broken away from the sanctioned quota and is now playing 50% local music and 50% international music since Sunday.
While the move to more local airplay on radio was widely welcomed by South African artists two weeks ago, listeners of the SABC’s various regional, language and culture based radio stations – like for instance LotusFM in KwaZulu-Natal catering specifically to a dedicated and loyal Indian listenership – have been vocal about their dislike of the sudden change.
Listeners who say they are tuning out are not against the greater airtime for local music on SABC radio stations but say the 90% quota is too high and are also upset over Motsoeneng’s order forcing radio stations catering to a specific cultural and language market segment to "cross-polinate" with other local music.
While RSG’s Afrikaans radio listeners now get airplay of Sesotho songs that’s been primarily the domain of an SABC radio station like LesediFM, LotusFM listeners the past two weeks had to listen to Afrikaans music and Mandoza in a move that meant less Indian and Bollywood music which is why these listeners say they tune to the station in the first place.
'If you don’t like it, tune to another non-SABC station'
"People are talking about three months. I don't know where three months is coming from. 90% is for life," Motsoeneng said two weeks ago about the move.
Last week SABC board member Aaron Tshidzumba, when asked specifically if the SABC will pull back to play less local music if the public says it’s too much, said "It won’t happen".
"As the board, I’m also uttering the words of Hlaudi Motsoeneng: ‘It won’t happen’. There’s a lot of private radio stations. If people don’t want to listen to SABC radio stations, tune to another one that is playing different music."
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn’t respond to a media enquiry made Monday morning seeking comment on why MetroFM adjusted back to 50% local music and 50% international songs on Sunday.
Commercial SABC stations like 5FM and MetroFM were reportedly not told about the major local airplay rule by upper management before it was announced in mid-May with no time to plan properly. Stations had to scramble to find enough local appropriate music for playout and compilers had to redo playlists.
*In an earlier version of this article Happy Ngidi was mistakenly referred to as the current MetroFM publicist. She is however no longer responsible for MetroFM's publicity.