Dear Radio: Why is “local” in radio such a big deal?
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) A couple of years ago, the station I was working for decided to air a syndicated show direct from LA. It had stars; it had gossip; it had the latest music from the Billboard chart (you can tell I wrote the promos). It was hosted by Ryan Seacrest — he of perma-tanned, perma-frosty-tipped and perma-Kardashianed, American Idol fame. It was hot. It was current. It was poorly received by the audience.
Even though it was giving them the gossip they wanted in the pre-Twitter era, and music as fresh as you could find at the time, the audience had just come off a run of nighttime shows hosted by Revin John and then Anele Mdoda — two kids (at the time) who captured exactly what kids at the time were about.
Fast-forward 10 years and local in radio is a big issue again.
Sparked by the SABC’s decision to up its quota of local music, South Africans, to my delight, were not only having dinner conversation — sorry, scratch that — Facebook conversation about radio, but they were passionately debating the merits of an almost exclusively local playlist. Out with the Biebs, in with Jeremy Loops. Less “Lemonade”, more Locnville’s “Grapevine”.
I was told on good authority that aspirant musicians queued outside the MetroFM studio, demos in hand, hoping that this was a chance for them to get their big break.
Local was cool again — except local in radio never stopped being cool.
Despite being a country that consumes Americana by the bucket load, we’ve never really migrated en masse to American…or British…or Australian radio. It doesn’t matter who they interview or which songs they break. We’ve never really been into it.
Radio is at its most powerful when it connects. Radio isn’t about a universal language. Radio is about your language. It’s about your culture, your traditions, your music.
Radio is about your place in the world, both spiritually and physically.
Radio feels one way when there is a Springbok match in town. Radio feels another when it’s doing obituary announcements. And it feels a completely different way on a Sunday afternoon when you’re sitting down with the family around lunch.
The SABC 90% decision has gotten people talking about radio and thinking about the role it plays and I think it’s made people realise something.
Makes us South African
In an age where our shows are Express from the US, more locals watch English football than the PSL and our malls are full of Australian chain stores, radio continues to be the thing that makes us South African, because radio works when it sounds exactly like you do.
Paulo Dias (@therealptp) is the head of creative integration at Ultimate Media. He works closely with the programming teams at leading radio stations to help implement commercial messaging into their existing formats. He contributes the regular column, “Dear Radio”, looking at the changing radio landscape in South Africa, to MarkLives.com