The changing radio broadcast landscape is presenting new and unique opportunities for all role players and needs action. The audio-creation space is driven by content which is key in building audiences within niched stations and digital platforms such as podcasts.

Storytellers in their own right, Group Executive Radio from SABC- Nada Wotshela, General manager at  East Coast Radio- Boni Mnchunu, CEO of Primedia Group- Omar Essack and CEO of Commercial Radio Australia Joan Warner engaged in panel discussion to talk about the challenges and opportunities currently faced by radio.

As a way of opening the floor to discussion, the director of the Wits Radio Academy, Professor Franz Kruger, posed the questions in the form of a story, where radio was a beautiful princess in the audio space, who was troubled by ogres and seven dwarfs ho are the threat and stumbling blocks to the prospering and existence of radio.

In response to this, Warner of Radio Australia says Australia, radio is doing quite well even though the spirit of radio has changed over the years. The listenership stands at 95% and seems to be growing even in the digital age. She added that radio has a grey area of pockets of audiences in various communities and this is the case anywhere in the world. She explains radio only has a 3% revenue share, while television and print players have not only lost shares but audiences as well.

“Radio has the power of influence and still needs to grow their revenue share.” Warner said.

Essak says South Africa stands at the highest revenue shares in the world, standing at a satisfying 14%. He adds that advertisers’ test the impact of radio through promotions, but online media is the far more appealing and trusted platform because the various game players in this industry have done a very good job in promoting and advertising themselves. He emphasized that radio needs to invest in advertising and do a better job at proving that they should be the preferred medium of advertising.

On the other hand the SABC’s Nada Wotshela says money is a problem but its numbers are good. She adds that community radio stations which broadcast in SA’s indigenous languages are doing an excellent job in revenue generation than previously thought and through this; they have been able to provide evidence to advertisers that radio is still relevant and effective in providing them a platform to sell their products without compromising their mandate as a broadcaster.

Wotshela added that the SABC needs to go back to sound governance and that both the mandate and the space of the advertiser can both exist.

The question of whether the public broadcaster should be removed from the commercial space, Boni Mchunu extrapolated that the SABC is good for the public in general, as long as they continue perform and perform at an optimal level.

The issue of the measurement of audiences especially those in the rural areas have always been sketchy and unsatisfactory, Essak responds stating that because they cannot cover all ground for both commercial and community radio stations, they make use of sampling even at the detriment of smaller radio stations, resulting in their misrepresentation.

He furthers explains that in a study they had conducted, where they interviewed 1000 people in Cape Town and Johannesburg, the results reflected the shifts that were presented in the Radio Audience Measurement (RAMS) study. He adds that the problem with face to face surveys is difficulty in accessing people in their homes, and considering the societal climate in SA, no one can blame them for their behavior. He added that his organization is looking at introducing an app where people can respond remotely to surveys.

Gaps which were highlighted in the between the new Broadcast Research Council’s (BRC) RAM’S study, the SABC’s Wotshela says 5 FM’S numbers decreased by 5%, meanwhile, Mchunu of East Coast’s radio says their numbers are up by 16% and have settled so far, she adds that collecting data electronically will work far better. Meanwhile according to Radio Australia’s CEO, Warner, says the face to face data measurement is the bedrock of data collection for them, making up the bulk of measurement by 70%, while the 30% is digital.

In discussing issues of collaborations, in conclusion, Wotshela says they are focusing on the qualitative aspects of data collection, to provide advertisers with the highly sought after data. Essack says “The problem is we see each other as the enemy and we’re not.  There are so many others out there who want to take away what we’ve got.” Adding that through collaborations of putting data connection efforts together and testimonials will work far better for radio than working alone.

Lebogang Bridget Lepere

(Edited by Simbarashe Honde)