REBECCA WOODROW

On 11 May the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) announced its decision to play 90% local music across the corporation’s 18 radio stations from Thursday 12 May in order to “prioritise home-grown content”. The SABC also increased its local television content from 1 July and music fillers between programmes are intended to be locally produced.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the SABC, said the change would make sure that the public broadcaster reflected the multitude of local music available. SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the decision came about after consultations with local music producers. The public broadcaster has encouraged fledgling and independent artists to come to the public broadcaster with “fresh proposals and content” to aid in this transition. South African music heavyweights, like hip-hop artist AKA and vocalist Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, have shown support for this decision on their respective social media accounts. Mabuse tweeted “good news viva SA music” in his response to the announcement of the quota.

The announcement has not been universally welcomed and is not without controversy. Popular commercial radio stations MetroFM and 5FM have stated that they were not told of this decision until knowledge of it had entered the public domain and were unable to properly orientate themselves to this substantial change. Lotus FM, a Durban-based station that caters to a community largely made up on Indian South Africans, had listeners threatening boycotts because the content traditionally played by the station meant that the station would not be able to conform to the quota. Jazz legend Don Laka, a proponent of the quota, wrote an open letter of warning to the station that it would face ramifications for its behaviour should it not abide by the SABC’s decision. Laka warned LotusFM in the letter posted to his Facebook page on 25 May that it must “Please (toe) the line and stop with your threats or we will campaign for a total shutdown.”

A belief that has supported the implementation of the 90% quota is that the additional exposure will aid artists in garnering success and earning an income from royalties. Royalties paid to artists are calculated as a percentage of advertising revenue. In May 2016 the SABC increased the percentage of the royalty payment from 3% to 4%. This is a significant increase considering the billions in advertising revenue generated by the SABC.

The public has shown a mixed reaction to the implementation of the quota, with Twitter users both praising the SABC and Motsoeneng, while others felt that the quota of 90% was too much. Some questioned whether the 90% quota would work on SABC’s commercial stations such as MetroFM and 5FM.

Speaking to TheMediaOnline, Nkopane Maphiri, business development director of The Media Connection, a company which represents community radio stations, said that community radio had been “playing well above the prescribed quota of local music for as long as community radio has been alive and with great success, because it’s been the choice of the listeners in the community that the radio stations serve”. He compared this to the decision of the SABC, saying, “The SABC as a public broadcaster may have unintentionally alienated a wide net of its listeners by disrupting the healthy mix of international and local blend that their discerning listeners are accustomed to – with no consultation and no warning.”