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THE MADIA JUNE 2018

COMMUNITY RADIO Playing with the big boys: Comunity radio punches above its weight The clear division between community and commercial radio in South Africa has eroded, with the former eating into the listener and advertising revenue share of its bigger counterparts. MICHAEL BRATT explores the shift and why community stations are increasing in stature. Gone are the days when comunity radio was considered the younger sibling of commercial radio: inexperienced, less professional, unreliable and a bad place for return on investment for advertisers. While some media agencies and clients still have that mindset, this should be cast aside as it has been disproven by numerous success stories of community stations competing with the major players. It starts with the regulator There will always be a formal distinction between community and commercial radio for two reasons. Firstly, the nature of the two is substantially different, and secondly operationally, the regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) hands out separate operating licences for the two. And it is the regulator that is accelerating the proliferation of community stations, because it’s not granting commercial licences, according to Lance Rothschild, CEO of the Liberty Radio Awards. “It starts with ICASA and the way in which they have overregulated the broadcast industry... In addition, the frequency spectrum has been poorly managed to the point that the regulator hides behind the fact that frequency spectrum is unavailable for allocation to new commercial broadcasters. Some of the community licensees would far rather opt for a commercial licence, but have had to set up a community station as that is the only licence available to them,” says Rothschild. But this has proven to be quite lucrative for certain stations, particularly those servicing high-end communities, which are achieving a great deal of success and making good money by attracting advertisers targeting their affluent listeners. A niche, targeted audience Rothschild’s sentiments are shared by executives in several community stations. “Radio has always been about reach and frequency. So with the rates that community radio offers and the market it talks to, why spend R20 000 to R30 000 on one commercial on a commercial station? You’ll get ten to 15 ads for that price on a community station, so you’re getting reach and frequency,” explains Lloyd Madurai, managing director of Hot 91.9 FM. “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says ‘today I’ll listen to a community station, or tomorrow I think I’ll listen to a commercial station’. The listener doesn’t know the difference between community and commercial. They’ll simply pick the best radio station on the dial that talks to them. “Gone are the days of sloppy community radio stations. The only difference between Hot 91.9 and any commercial station out there is that our shareholders are pretty much the community, we don’t take any of this money,” he adds. Mpho Mhlongo, founder and CEO of Jozi FM, the community station with the largest listenership in South Africa, according to the BRC’s RAM research, agrees with Madurai. “For years in South Africa there was a connotation that community radio means you are less professional, you are just an organisation to keep people busy. That’s what we’re changing; community doesn’t mean you are less important … community just means the community owns it. When a person listens to radio they don’t differentiate between commercial and community, they tune into one that talks to them.” Mix FM station manager Abigail Milosevich shares her station’s marketing successes. “We’ve had all types of advertisers, from the local business down the road to national advertisers,” she says. Like other community stations, the appeal is more targeted advertising to specific geographies and listener demographics. As Rothschild says, community stations are filling programming gaps that are being left open by commercial stations, and attracting a viable and marketable audience. “What’s happening is that revenue is following these listeners. Furthermore, being so tightly focused, and with such a defined, and limited, broadcast footprint, new advertisers are getting the opportunity to advertise on radio,” he adds. P 16 The Media | wagthedog.co.za


THE MADIA JUNE 2018
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