I often joke about how radio and soccer are synonymous. However, the more I think about it, the more this analogy makes sense. For starters, similarly to soccer players, the radio jocks are independent contractors who are uniquely contracted depending on talent, skill and experience. Secondly, soccer teams are somewhat fan orientated; the bigger the fan-base, as a result of winning, the more likely the team is to gain various sponsors. Similarly, a radio station that wins the listenership battle is also more likely to gain advertisers (not always the case, though). The third and final nailing to my analogy coffin, is that just like radio jocks, soccer players fight for their spot in the line-ups and dethroning each other is part and parcel of the game.
In my humble opinion, a radio station ought to have three fundamental approaches towards recruitments and succession. Each commercial or Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) station needs to have a healthy training base. This can be in the form of campus or community radio stations that produce on-air talent for the commercial station. Through this process they would get slots within the radio station that are focused on cultivating up and coming on-air talent (i.e. graveyard slots).
Again, to draw a parallel to a soccer team, this is the development side of the team. Like a soccer team, there are certain positions within a commercial or PBS station you can’t compromise on: these positions require seasoned talent. Apart from the graduating talent (development), there are positions where the station needs to headhunt for, in order to compete at an industry competitive level.
The headhunting will be highly informed by the station’s vision, of course. Under normal circumstances, you find the positions are aligned to prime time shows such as the breakfast and the afternoon drive. It is always wonderful when one of those prime time slots is occupied by an internal graduate, which would, symbolically, show growth prospects within the station.
A succession plan always makes for a smooth transition into positions, especially prime time slots. A station like YFM executes its succession plan very well. At Y, one can tell who is going to take over the prime time slots by just looking at the stand-in jocks. YFM has a system where they utilise the ‘next-in-line’ as the official stand-in when the prime-time jock can’t do the show. This not only mentally prepares the ‘next-in-line’ but it also prepares the listener for the upcoming change. Most PBS stations poach at Y, thus every April (contract season) the station has to somewhat prepare for change or expect change (whether it happens or not).
Now, with the diluted nature of South African radio currently, it would be naive to think that most radio stations have a recruitment and succession strategy. This is reflected by the appointments made by the top stations, such as Metro FM appointing influencers, with no radio background, as presenters. This sets a very dangerous precedence because stations like Metro FM are somewhat taste-makers in the radio industry because of how big their reach is. Thus my blanket approach towards the influence a station like Metro FM would have on other radio stations.
Metro FM’s recruitment strategy, or lack thereof, was exposed in the highly publicised departure of DJ Fresh from the station. For weeks the station was directionless, leaving listeners wondering who was going to take over the reins. During this period, they had various jocks standing-in to see if they fit the mould and, eventually, they decided to use Mo Flava as the official replacement, leaving a gap on the drive-time slot he was doing.
The station management then appoints the Kings of the Weekend (Sphe and Naves) to do the drive, a decision that further solidifies my suspicion and assumption that the station has no succession, nor recruitment, plan. Allow me to interrogate this decision a bit… What message does this decision send to senior jocks like Thomas Msengana, Mo G and Marian Nyako-Lartey?
It says there’s no growth prospects for them internally anymore, furthermore they are not good enough to do the drive show, thus they should look elsewhere if they still have growth ambitions. Secondly, it speaks to the reactionary approach of management that exists at Metro. In simple terms, DJ Fresh leaving Metro, for whatever reason, was never a thought in the minds of the Metro FM management. Sadly, this reactionary management culture has characterised the SABC as a whole in recent years. Being proactive is foreign at the SABC.
I remember a time, not so long ago, where Tbo Touch graduated from hosting a hip-hop show over the weekend, to hosting the biggest drive time show in the history of Metro FM. I also remember a time where brunch time host, Thando Thabethe graduated to host the drive time show on 5FM, and killing it. The point here is that development and growth within the South African radio sector is possible provided there’s a strong will at the top for it to happen.
Nkox is an experienced radio jock with a demonstrated history of working in the media broadcasting space as both a broadcaster and broadcasting training coach. He has trained radio jocks for community radio stations such as Kovsie FM, Motheo FM and CUT FM. He is a strong business development professional with a Bachelor of Arts degree focused in Political Transformation and Governance from University of the Free State. Having previously co-founded an online pop-culture publication called “Central Vibe” which was accompanied by a lifestyle entertainment show on YouTube. Nkox is always diversifying his interests and skills within the media space.