Reasons why Power FM fails to attract blacks

2014-12-22 12:35

I am young black South African in my twenties and I am avid talk radio listener. I listen to talk radio in my car; in the office while I work using my phone; and at home. I normally surf between Talk Radio 702, SAFM, and Power FM Talk during the day.When Power FM was launched in June 2013, it was a great relief from Talk Radio 702 which is seen as holding Eurocentric views and SAFM which is seen an ANC propaganda machine.

With Power FM being a 100% black owned media house it was seen as a talk radio station that would attract mostly black listenership. But tragically, this is not the case as the station has had to deal with a many hurdles since its inception.

Talk Radio 702 as “white” as it may seem; over 55% of its listeners are black. One would have thought it was going to be easy for Power FM to snatch at least half of those listeners from Talk Radio 702.

Recent figures released by the South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) for December 2014 show that Power FM is currently sitting at 71 000 listeners. These figures have tremendously dropped from 106 000 listeners over the last few months.

Power FM has failed to retain on-air talent such as Siki Mgabadeli, McIntosh Polela, Chris Vick, Asanda Magaqa, Eusebius McKaiser and Azania Mosaka who have all resigned over the last few months.

Given Mkhari, chief executive officer of MSG Afrika, majority owner of Power FM; and the station’s executive director Andile Khumalo need to take their heads out of the sand and deal with genuine concerns of their on-air talent who have reportedly resigned as a result of what was described as contractual disagreements, and some presenters who were not given contracts before joining the station.

The main reason why Power FM is failing to attract its target market which is the young black middle class is because Power FM pitched as competition to Talk Radio 702. This was a recipe for disaster in the first place. According to December figures from the South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) has 867 000 listeners. Power FM does not even have 10% of that.

Power FM should have been either a bilingual radio station that mixes English and one other vernacular language or should have been 40% English, 30% Zulu and 30% Sotho. If Power FM incorporated indigenous African languages it would have attracted more people.

According to Census Survey that was conducted in South Africa, Zulu is still the most widely spoken language in South Africa with more than 11.5 million South Africans listing it in the latest population count as their first language. The language is dominant in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng.

The most popular radio station in the country in Ukhozi FM which is Zulu based with 7.8 million listeners. This is the second biggest radio station in the world in terms of listenership.

In KZN, a black youth radio station called Gagasi FM was launched a few years ago and it is “Zulunglish” radio station meaning it uses both IsiZulu and English to communicate to listeners and currently has close to 2 million listeners and is the ninth most popular radio station in South Africa according to SAARF.

It is not that black South Africans want to listen to music all day, but they want to have interesting conversations about politics, social issues and matters that affect their lives directly in their own African language. Talk Radio 702 excludes many South Africans simply based on the language barrier. Power FM had the perfect opportunity to change all of this by at least presenting some of its shows and news bulletins in Zulu or Sotho to be more inclusive.

We need to debunk this idea that our indigenous African languages are inferior to a European language like English. There is nothing that I find more disgusting and revolting like meeting a black African child that ONLY speaks English and his parents are proud that their child speaks “the Queen’s language” so eloquently but cannot utter a word of Zulu, Tswana or Xhosa let alone understand these African languages.

Radio stations like Ukhozi FM, Umhlobo Wenene FM, Lesedi FM, Thobela FM and Motsweding FM each have over 3 million listeners daily. Power FM should have targeted the listeners on these radio stations by speaking their African language instead of Talk Radio 702 and SAFM listeners who do not even have 1 million listeners each according to the Radio Audience Measurement Survey (RAMS).

I believe that it is not too late for Power FM to change its “language policy”. If it continues with the status quo it will lose more and more listeners. Power FM is also failing to attract advertising according to some reports. On top of that great broadcasters like Tim Modise will leave the station like many others who have done so in recent months.

RAMS third quarter 2014 show Power FM with 71 000 listeners daily, the numbers continue to plummet and it’s a sure sign that this talk radio station is going nowhere slowly. Numbers do not lie! Management at Power FM needs to do something urgently to address this as it has become a sinking Titanic that will go down with all the talented broadcasters which the station has.

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