Dear Radio: The secret SA radio didn’t want you to know
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) And you won’t believe what happened next…
Now that I’ve got your mouse pointer or finger hovering eagerly over my very clickbaity headline, let’s turn your attention to the very 2017 fad of fake news and more specifically how, in an era of fake news, radio maintains its position as the medium you may trust.
We’re always told that radio is the intimate medium, the one where listeners build a one-on-one relationship with presenters and trusts them implicitly. I know from numerous non-traditional radio ad campaigns, and radio being the first influencer-driven marketing medium, how much trust listeners put in the words of their favourite presenter. I’ve seen first-hand that, by the presenter telling the listener to go buy something or attend an event, they will strongly consider it.
Playing on this relationship is so crucial in an age where, according to a BuzzFeed analysis in 2016, headlines such as “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President” and “Morgue Worker Arrested After Giving Birth To A Dead Man’s Baby.” ranked as some of the most-engaged-with and -shared stories.
Who is driving the fake news agenda and why is being debated in much more detail and with more authority than me elsewhere. It’s pondered whether it is propaganda fuelling political agendas, is it just a new method of making money from online content ensuring more clicks and views, or is it just being driven by faceless and friendless online trolls who worship at the altar of Milo Yiannopoulos? Whatever the reason, and I don’t dispute that there are sinister agendas behind fake news, let’s consider the role radio plays as a trusted source of information.
Built their reputations
The majority of radio groups in this country have built their reputations on being premium suppliers of news and information. 702 and its doggedness for the truth spawned the integrity behind EWN, 947, KFM and CapeTalk and laid the foundation for honest programming that people could trust. Others followed suit and even music radio stations made a point of offering premium news services to their audiences.
Today’s instantaneous news cycle and the need created by social media to be first or trending, rather than correct, has shaken up traditional news establishments and the way they operate their newsrooms, but the truthfulness and transparency expected from radio stations in all facets of their programming means they are not excused, and judged more harshly than other media when they do put out false or incorrect information. Lord help a DJ who gives you the wrong artist’s name when back-announcing a song or gives an incorrect answer during a quiz. There’s no place to hide or a bottom corner of page 2 retraction for that…I know from hard and hate-filled experience.
Never call him Jason Bieber, no matter how new an artist he is.
“In radio we trust”
Search hard enough and you will find radio stations which have fallen victim to fake news stories but you’ll find more truth in radio news reports and from radio news sources than you will from the average social medium.
When writing about the same topic, Robin Lustig, Radio 4’s veteran broadcaster, said “In an era of fake news radio is not a luxury — it’s a necessity” and closed it off with a sentiment close to my heart, “In radio we trust.”
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