ON AIRREVIEW

Notes on the Liberty Radio Awards

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Ace Moloi was at the prestigious Liberty Radio Awards and decided to be generous with his notes.

This is NOT the day the Lord hath made

First and foremost, this didn’t begin as the day the Lord has made—the kind to rejoice and be glad in. As if my uninspired mood was insufficient, I was the first pick-up of the Kovsie FM delegation, which means I had to be up before others, except the authorised driver Richard Chemaly, whose hyper-punctuality means transformation in SA is failing, for he’d by now be observing African time.

We are radio and radio is us

The scent of opulence weighs heavy in the Sandton air. If you’re poor, it makes you sneeze. Here, everything is commercially appealing. It won’t be a shock to learn that the pebble on the pavement costs more than my sneakers.

It’s a case of rural and suburban dogs, as Liberty Radio Awards co-host Loyiso would later joke: how spoilt dogs in the suburbs are, compared to their dusty counterparts. Loyiso Madinga and Lebo Mashile are our hosts for the evening. The pairing of the two performers who aren’t primarily from the radio industry reaffirms radio’s centrality in uniting us—if not to teach presenters some listening skills.

Lebo says it herself: “My career wouldn’t have been possible without the support of radio,” citing the likes of Glen Lewis and Shado Twala as frontrunners in airing her craft.

CEO Lance Rothschild puts it powerfully in his opening remarks that, “Radio provides [listeners] with a sense of place.”

Things are now in place. The place itself is filled with radio freaks who lead their lives as though they are shows, organising them around a clock. The ones who ask for an ad break when they end the relationship. Weird characters that do soccer commentary when making love, so that when they climax they shout, “Laduma!”

#BringBackIce

When I noticed the Radio 2000 stand I went to it, specifically to look for programmes manager Christopher Choane and chant #BringBackIce in his face. But he sees me first and breaks into familiar humour, “Ever since I removed Ice from breakfast you no longer talk to me.”

But why did he relegate Ice from the PSL of programming to Mvela? The social media heat thawed The Ice Man. It costs the SABC over R40 million to run Radio 2000, I’m told. Yet the ROI is a minimal R9 million. So, a breakfast host who is attractive to a higher LSM and has an online influence is a Phat catch.   

A bunch of losers

Everyone (and station) here is a finalist hoping to win something. But the organisers know how to prepare you for your L. They give you the first seats by the door, far from the limelight, because you won’t need it. You and a bunch of other losers are here for the food, drinks and clapping. So, I accept that the Community Project Award we’re finalists of (for our amazing #CoolKidsTakeOver) will go to our other campus radio rivals. But losing in the community upliftment category feels like failing L.O or Sunday school.

Anyway, in 2018 Ba2Cada said he didn’t submit his show for the awards, sprinkling doubt on their credibility, I thought I’d witness a Thando Mgqolozana kind of revolt. However, it was surprising that this year when Rea Kubeletsa was nominated, Cada didn’t reject the nomination, but shared the news on social media with a shy sense of validation.

Nobody from Lesedi FM was here. The station was having its strategic weekend. Hopefully it will come back knowing how to appeal to urban Basotho. Re shwele ke Japie who has been listening from a carwash for over 10 years.

Congratulations to Twasa and the squad for winning the PBS breakfast show award. On the commercial front, LOTUS FM’s Morning Masala claimed victory, and two gorgeous Indian women pranced to the stage, oozing the temperature of Chicken Tikka Masala.

OFM’s Thabang Moselane and Gerben Van Niekerk’s induction as Bright Stars is the kind of content I travelled here for.

Yheeyi. This year’s Hall of Fame has names I have never heard of. I think I must be entered into a hall of shame.

Robert Mara-Why

Marawa Sports Worldwide owns sports on radio. I think other sports shows must begin to accept their friendzone status. It’s not like we don’t love them. We love them . . . as friends. Marawa is our type.

Speaking of Rob, it’s refreshing to know there are traffic reporters other than Rob Byrne, the Gupta of SA(BC) radio, the man who is to the SABC what The New Age was to the Free State Provincial Government.

The Beaten FM?

Given Mkhari was always locked in a conversation. I thought of wielding a finger at him like he did to Thabo Mbeki in a fabricated display of familiarity and ask him about Beat FM, which seems to have stopped beating so as to show him it’s possible for the beating to stop.

Ayathengwa?

HOT 91.9 circumcised the Philistines it was up against, drying their foreskins in the sun. They won so many awards that they finished our clapping bundles, and we downgraded from a roaring applause to clapping only once, wondering if ayathengwa lama-awards!

This station is a retirement village of the industry, a safety net catching the has-beens of radio from falling into total oblivion. Some of the presenters look like they cough during their links, or do their shows with a nurse by their side to remind them of medication times.

Their clean sweep reminds me of township football tournaments. There’s always that team which has disgraced and bench-warming PSL players showing everyone else flames so much so their opponents cry, “Taba le baholo” when the going gets tough. Yeah, le baholo, HOT 91.9.

If ever the elders of 91.9 pre-ordered these awards, then TUKS FM must be their awards buying academy. So, when HOT 91.9 and TUKS FM shared a nomination (station imaging), I whispered to my programmes manager, “We shall see who has the real money now.”

Although TUKS lost the auction for the award, suffice to say the UP kids know these unsavoury things already. When their hip-hop show crew went on stage to collect their night time show award, there was a hun making sure she opens the curtain she was wearing to show us some flesh, before attempting a poorly coordinated twerk. Her stunts explained why they’d win in a category about things that happen at night.

What meaneth this?

These awards are more than just an extravaganza of glitz and glamour; they’re a point of conversation. Ba2Cada had reason to his rant: some of the people who judge submissions have no idea about the presenters or their language. Moreover, the criterion remains subjective, which means radio beauty is in the ear of the listener.

The dominant winners have a similar identity. TUKS FM caters for Jacaranda FM’s current listener when they were teenagers, and this listener will be HOT 91.9’s target audience when they reach 55. What makes them win is beyond just pure radio, but representation on the judging panel.

The fact that there’s a category for content production reminds us that the quality of foreplay determines the intensity of the orgasm. Content is foreplay.

I realised that every category is an important facet in radio, challenging stations to have innovative ways to engage with the listenership on the airwaves, on the ground and on the internet.

The partnership of Loyiso and Lebo beautifully illustrates the power of diversity. In addition to the MC gig, Loyiso delivered a crisp comedy set that made us laugh a lot and not a little as Smash Afrika would want us. Lebo’s poetry performance arrested the crowd in a moment of deep reflection about identity politics and how to use the economy of words to drive messages.

Point is, you need to have more skills to make it in this industry. Though you may identify as on-air talent, you should know how to create content and cut audio and compile music and run social media campaigns and do other shows. It saves the station money when you come as a package, especially at the SABC, which is Biblically going through its own seven years of famine.

Ace Moloi is a freelance writer, author and writing consultant.

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