'Sjoe, but the radio sucks in Cape Town broe!' Says Irfaan, whistling through the gap where his front teeth used to be.
'Hosh!' says his friend, Pitje. 'If it's not this cheesy R&B and Americanised hip hop blasting on Good Hope FM, then it's more cheesy R&B on P4, and if you sommer fliek the dial to KFM you'll hear that damn Doobie-Doobie Doo song on repeat again. Jislaaik! I swear iss enough to make you mal.'
'Jus play the Brasse Vannie Kaap CD again, broe!'
It's not uncommon in the urbanized coastal areas of South Africa to find young South Africans suffering from road rage. This is probably because there are no radio stations to soothe their frayed nerves in the traffic. Bad jokes aside; visit any coastal town and you'll find many South African youths who abhor the radio. And rightly so, there are no local stations in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape that cater for anyone under 35. Leaving young people to either burn CDs or listen to 5FM. With the exception of Good Hope FM, All the major stations (Algoa FM, KFM and East Coast Radio) are formatted for Adult Contemporary. Easy listening baby. So if you're not into Mango Groove, Survivor and Sting, you're on your own. But in the ten short years since liberation, these areas have also become boom towns, with vibrant economies and a youth oriented demographic. And with ICASA set to drop a whole bunch of new commercial licenses, the stage is set for a serious shake up. Maybe we will get the local, youth market contender we've all been waiting for.
But in the safe business paradigm of South African media, with the emphasis being on building feasible, profitable media assets, the urban, adult contemporary format has proven to be a very successful model from Highveld to Jacaranda and even OFM. In this regard East Coast Radio is the undeniable champion of coastal radio stations reaching a whopping (and steadily increasing) audience of 1, 879 000 listeners in the Durban area (RAMS 2004A), enjoying nine successive RAMS diary increases. Moreover they notched ad revenue to the tune of almost R266 million from January 04 - January 05 (AIS/Adex). Now that Kagiso Media have acquired minority stakes in P4 KZN and P4 Cape Town they will be looking toward playing a bigger part in making those businesses as successful as the East Coast flagship. P4 Cape Town is currently attracting an upbeat 578 000 listeners (RAMS 2004A), with some very tidy ad revenue of R10 703 459 from January 04 - January 05. While in Durban, East Coast Radio maybe starving it's baby cousin P4, which has a strong listenership of 618 000 (RAMS 2004A) but a paltry ad revenue of just R5 million (AIS/Adex Jan 04 - Jan 05).
Next up are the recently acquired Primedia station KFM. KFM's success story is almost as glittering as East Coast with a revenue of more than R192 million from January 04 - January 05 and a steadily increasing listenership peaking just on 1.2 million according to RAMS 2004A.
'Things are going fine since we acquired KFM from NAIL.' Says Primedia Executive Chairman, Dan Moyane. 'We took over in October and started putting in place operational systems that fit in with the Primedia Broadcasting culture and organizational structure and efficiency, and we took over the sales from Radmark in January this year. So we've only been selling KFM since January this year. KFM has been a successful brand, that's why we bought it. And already at the financial performance level, there has been a slight improvement in the profit margins of the station.'
In the border region, while the surf continues to pump year round and sharks are a continuous threat in the line-ups, Algoa FM have seen their listenership wane to 454 000 (Amps 2004A) from 479 000 at the end of last year, taking them down to a listenership last experienced in 2002. However ad revenue has remained remarkably buoyant earning Algoa FM close to R33 million from January 04 - January 05 (AIS/Adex)
SABC operated Good Hope FM, in Cape Town is possibly the closest thing to a youth oriented coastal radio station. However they have had difficulty capitalizing on this segment of the market. On the back of several consistent Amps increases they now have a tidy listenership of just over 600 000 (RAMS 2004A). However they seem to have gotten carried away recently, declaring themselves, via PR Agency Total-Exposure, 'Cape Town's biggest radio station!'
What a misleading bunch of hogwash. How can Good Hope FM be the biggest station in Cape Town when KFM clearly dominates in listenership and ad revenue?
'It's all a mindset.' Explains station manager Helen Graham. 'At Good Hope FM we believe we have the biggest personalities, the biggest sound and the biggest appeal to our target market.'
Ja. Sounds like a cover up job for sloppy PR, if you ask me. However loose lipped spindoctors should not detract from what have been some hard earned gains for Good Hope FM.
'Good Hope FM started repositioning itself in the marketplace a couple of years ago and we have spent a lot of time ensuring that the station's programming accurately reflects the new brand positioning.' Says Graham. 'We hope that this campaign will encourage advertisers who have not been spending with the station, to realise that Good Hope FM delivers a powerful audience of young adult Capetonians, predominantly female, who aspire to a trendy, fashionable lifestyle, while being in touch with the music, entertainment, sports and lifestyle of Cape Town.'
This might explain the brazen and sexually provocative imagery and tone of their advertisements as an attempt to attract a larger number of male listeners.
The station did average business last year clocking in almost R43 and a half million (AIS/Adex Jan 04 - Jan 05).
However, the most interesting developments in coastal radio are set to take place with ICASA's new licensing announcement at the beginning of 2006.
'The Authorities' view is that those provinces don't have commercial licenses that are based in those provinces.' Explains ICASA's Michael Markovitz. 'So we think it's an important intervention from ICASA. The president referred to South Africa as having two economies. We at ICASA have recognized that there's a first economy of broadcasting and a second economy. And there are certain provinces that have not had opportunities. One has to remember that some of the licenses that cover those provinces pre-existed. They were former SABC licenses that were privatized. There haven't been any start-up or new commercial licenses issued in those provinces.'
However according to the current legislation, no media company can control more than two AM and two FM stations, thus ruling out some of the biggest industry players.
'The law is as it stands.' Says Markovitz. 'We made suggestions to the minister after completing an inquiry last year, into the IBA act, particularly sections 48, 49 and 50 which deal with ownership provisions in particular. Those proposed amendments would have allowed for more flexibility with regard to some of the ownership limitations. Unfortunately the law has not yet been amended in this regard.'
While it raises questions around business acumen and competence, the current legislation also opens door for new media companies to secure commercial broadcasting licenses, with fresh formatting ideas.
'We haven't stipulated formats or whether it needs to be talk or music or whatever.' Explains Markovitz. 'We`re basically calling for people to make applications that they think are going to be most viable. And that's why we've given them 6 months for applications to be made, so people have enough time to do the feasibility studies to see whether this is going to fly.'
The big dog of the industry, Primedia, has been watching such developments closely. 'Under the current legislation we are not allowed to control another radio station because we already own, operate and control Highveld and KFM on the FM side and Capetalk and 702 on AM.' Says Dan Moyane. 'But when the law changes, and it's going to change, as soon as parliament approves the new law, which will allow us to own more than four radio stations. Obviously we'd be looking for a license in the Durban market.'
The intention here is to compete with East Coast Radio's local hegemony. 'Of course, we think that competition is good for the industry. It makes one look at what you're doing, focus more and raise the bar of your game. It's not going to take us backwards.'
And that's good news for Irfaan, Pitje and millions of other young, disaffected South Africans who live by the sea and have nothing to listen to on their radios.