By Samantha Cook
With the awards show in its third year, the 2012 MTN Radio Awards
, which held its glittering gala ceremony on the evening of Saturday, 14 April, saw a number of changes from previous years with the addition of several new categories to the awards. While some proved to be more interesting than exciting, others, such as the inclusion of dedicated categories for community, public broadcasting service (PBS) and campus radio stations, revealed an intriguing pattern. You see, as the awards were being announced on the night, guests would have noticed the popularity of two particular stations in their respective categories – Radio Islam
in community radio, and Ukhozi FM
in the PBS category (each station received eight awards apiece over the course of the evening). In addition, both stations were the sole recipients of the My Station award, designed to incorporate the votes of listeners into the awards.
With the formal proceedings concluded, station representatives dashed off to celebrate their success – but I was left with one burning question: clearly these stations are getting something right, but what is their secret to success? According to Radio Islam
’s Ismael Variava, it boils down to simple station philosophies: “Hard work, dedication, support structures and community support,” he lists.
Attributing the station’s success at the awards both to better work being done by the station and better recognition from the awards itself, he adds that a strong audience relationship was also a key factor. As for nurturing this relationship, Variava says that the station holds to several strategies – “Make them feel part of the radio, take into account listeners’ feedback, and undertake projects relevant to the community.”
Station manager at Ukhozi FM
, Bonga Mpanza, agrees. “The driving force has always been the fact that we know that radio is for and about our listeners. We always make our listeners feel part of the station, their opinion counts and we never talk above their heads.”
This tie to the listening community is a sentiment also echoed by MTN Radio Awards
CEO, Lance Rothschild, in the run-up to this year’s awards. “We’re listening to what is being done in the listeners’ ears, what is being delivered to the listeners’ mind space, and that’s what makes good
radio,” he emphasised. “That’s what makes people say ‘wow, that’s my station’. Radio stations need to strive to build that absolute bridge between them and the listener.”
Talking about the addition of the community and PBS radio categories to the awards, both Mpanza and Variava agree that this change was for the better, and gave more stations the opportunity to be acknowledged. “This afforded us as a public broadcasting service an opportunity to compete fairly and really distinguish what we stand for, as opposed to other stations,” says Mpanza.
Having gone from just one award in 2011 to eight this year, Mpanza adds that the station’s increased recognition at the awards show was also the result of an active effort to better promote its work within the industry. “We did not enter as many categories as we did this year, and we have also put a lot of effort in [over] the past year to revisit and revamp our shows, content and entirely the station’s brand. We felt it was about time to show ourselves and get that recognition from our peers and the radio industry as a whole.”
If nothing else, the wealth of recognition shown to both Radio Islam
and Ukhozi FM
has inspired both stations to strive even more for excellence – a goal that the stations will be taking into the next year. “There is a huge amount of talent out there,” says Variava, “and for [Radio Islam
] to continue with its success, it will have to work on the formula that was part of [this year’s] success – that is, teamwork, dedication and innovation.”
“Radio is evolving, the world is getting smaller and that is the space we are playing in as a radio station; but this doesn’t mean we should lose focus of who we are as a brand. We know what works for us and how we can use this to further maintain our position as South Africa’s biggest station,” ends Mpanza.
With both Ukhozi FM
and Radio Islam
vowing to improve their entries and up the competition in 2013, it would seem that PBS and community radio are increasingly sharing the spotlight with commercial radio – often seen as the ‘cool kid’ of the radio space. Is this perhaps the resurrection needed to encourage more value being attributed to PBS, community and campus radio? Let us know on our blog