Hlaudi: ‘Part of my job is to take risks’

Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Photo: Elizabeth Sejake
Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Photo: Elizabeth Sejake

Hlaudi Motsoeneng has vowed not to stop at 90% local content on SABC radio stations; he will blow his winds of change through public TV too.

“I have been chairing a meeting where I have been dealing with this issue of content. I am going to revamp SABC3. It will be 80% local movies,” he told City Press in an interview on Thursday.

“It is painful for me when we go and interact with film makers. They tell me they go outside when we have our own SABC. We want to be at a place where South Africans can produce their own movies in their own languages and English, so we can compete internationally.”

Motsoeneng says he wants more to local dramas and soapies than a cultural angle. He wants authenticity, where shows are produced in actual locations and not exclusively in SABC studios.

“Don’t worry about risk. Risk is me and I own up to it. But I know this is a good risk,” he insists.

It’s midday Thursday and Motsoeneng has been trending on Twitter since the early hours of Wednesday. It is nothing new.

Every few months, the eccentric chief operating officer is bound to make headlines for some or other outrageous remark.

But today is different.

Relaxed, sitting on a plush purple couch, dressed up in a suit, also purple, Motsoeneng is boisterous and upbeat. In typical fashion, he has overnight announced – seemingly out of nowhere – that the SABC will from now on play 90% local music across its 18 radio stations.

One can’t tell that he has been up since the early hours, monitoring to see if what he said should be implemented just hours before it was in fact done.

“Who will be complaining? I’m in charge. How will you complain to me when I’m in charge?” he responds when asked about what must have been a significant backlash.

“I know that people are saying it is a risk, but risk is a part of me. I like risk because if I can’t take a risk, it means we can’t move as a country to change South Africa, especially on the content side. I always introduce risk in life because part of my job is to take that risk and I am glad that we are saying, finally, 90% South African music.”

Motsoeneng insists that the decision was made after wide consultation and many meetings with both musicians and independent producers over months. But eyebrows have been raised about what the move will mean for commercial stations, which make a lot of their money from sponsors and endorsements in collaboration with international acts.

Who will be complaining? I’m in charge. How will you complain to me when I’m in charge?

Motsoeneng insists the same rules will apply.

“You see, sometimes, I just take decisions in the interests of the citizens, because my view is that we need to change the mind-sets of people,” he says in response to a question on whether commercial stations were consulted.

“Why can’t our own companies invest in local content? Why do they want to invest in international content when we have our own people? When the banks and other big companies are benefiting from South Africans, why can’t they invest back?

“Why are they willing to invest money in an appearance by Beyoncé, for example, but not for our own people? The only difference between those artists and us is that we don’t believe in ourselves.”

Motsoeneng has declared his decision an “innovation”.

While some reports claim the decision will be implemented as a pilot project over the next three months, Motsoeneng insists: “There is no three

“It is not like after three months we’re not going to have this 90%. We will review and put measures in place to assist where necessary.”

Motsoeneng says the move does not mean that only Afrikaans music will be played on RSG, or that Sotho music will be played on Lesedi FM. His vision is that all different genres will be played across all 18 stations.

Metro FM’s old school R&B Sundays have become an institution of sorts in many homes across the country. Will there be less Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross?

“It will be local music 90%, 10% international.”

After a brief moment, he adds: “I think the issue that I need to check, I know some of them are sponsored. I said to the team we must still meet about it, but I still believe I will just decide. It depends on the impact, on how much is the value. If there is no value, I don’t see any reason they should keep it.”

Motsoeneng wants it to be known that this move is for South Africans: it will create jobs, give much-needed exposure to local acts, and teach South Africans about themselves and where they come from.

“If I fall, good. At least I tried something special. In this position that we hold, you can’t be afraid of taking a risk. Even if the majority of the team at the SABC says no, we don’t agree with you, as long as I believe.”

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