Dear Radio: Unearthing & polishing the hidden radio gems
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) Why is there no patience or willingness to work with newcomers to radio and give them a break?
Even though I listen to a lot of radio and consider myself to be on top of most station lineups and in tune with their individual positioning, I still sometimes find myself checking the dial to find what station I’m on. Outside of your headline breakfast shows, it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate stations by music, features, promotions, events and presenters.
The hardest job
The hardest job in a radio station must be the person tasked with finding new talent.
I remember walking into programming offices and seeing stacks and stacks of demo CDs (it was that long ago) of aspirant presenters putting their best, often most-cringeworthy, auditions forward. I admired the programme managers and talent scouts patience for sitting through hours and hours of people talking the way they think radio presenters need to talk, and making inane banter with hammy time checks and silly song facts — all with pretty dire audio quality as making any sort of production outside of a professional studio, even 10 years ago, was tricky for the common person.
It was very seldom that a new talent was found through these demos.
Community and campus radio have always been a good hunting ground, with lots of talent finding their way to the big time through these media and I imagine over the next few years, podcasters and online radio presenters will start to filter through to the mainstream… despite how much they may protest now that their current medium is where they prefer to stay.
Waiting their chance
I’ve no doubt there are loads of talented broadcasters in this country waiting to get their chance. I even met two of them recently: Daluxolo “Dali” Jalmeni and Sonia Mokheseng, currently on Massiv Metro — a dynamic hybrid station that fuses terrestrial radio behaviour with digital capabilities — just 30 minutes with these two, who’re polished, prepped, enthusiastic and… whisper it… just love being on radio.
It has me wondering where their break will come from. You could put them on any mid-morning slot in the country and they would thrive.
The fad of giving famous people and social media celebrities radio shows will pass and we’ll return back to people who do radio and broadcasting really well. But why is there no patience or willingness to work with the newcomers and give them a break?
Any potential new talent is stuck on graveyard shifts and weekend afternoons — doing the hours, putting in the slog but seldom getting the opportunity.
Colour by numbers
Nothing gets a programming department buzzing like a major presenter leaving as every fill-in and part-timer hammers on managements door, asking for their crack at daytime… only to find out a few weeks later that a colour-by-numbers replacement is being brought in from the competitor to make their new station sound exactly like the station they were on before.
I get why no one takes these risks. Listeners are hard to please. Advertisers don’t like change and working in a programming department is hard enough without the added pressure of having to train someone new. But surely the potential reward is worth the risk.
The next Fresh or Anele is already sitting in a radio station somewhere.
Does anyone have the patience or guts to unleash them?
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