Fluff is not all that young people want from radio

Generation Y: Panelists at Joburg Radio Day discussed ways of keeping the youth tuned in. Photo: Luca Kotton.

Generation Y: Panelists at Joburg Radio Day discussed ways of keeping the youth tuned in. Photo: Luca Kotton.

The Joburg Radio Days conference ended today with a focus on the youth segment of radio consumers. Rofhiwa Madzena weighs in on the debate.

The Debate

Radio today does not focus enough on the youth , according to one of the speakers on this morning’s opening panel on the final day of the 2014 Joburg Radio Days conference at Wits University. Speakers on this panel tried to outline their various approaches to attracting and servicing the youth market.

Lerato Makate, programming manager at Voice of Wits said: “VowFM radio is more than just an on-air party.” She added that the perception that young people do not like talk and intellectual content on radio station needs to be changed. Makate said radio needs to focus on a combination of talk and music which is something “not many campus radio stations do.”

J.P Schlueter, formerly of German youth station Dasding, was also a part of the panel. He emphasised that even the staff of youth stations need constant reevaluation especially as they cease to be young people. “It’s important for young people to make programming for young people,” Schleuter said and added that systems in Germany are not favourable to youth development.

Schlueter argued that for success in youth radio, stations need to be radical and consistent but at the same time regularly make changes that keep up with the youth.

The CEO of Yfm, Kanthan Pillay countered the call for more intellectual content on radio stations whose target market is young people. After a comment from that the audience that “youth radio is filled with mindless fluff … it sidelines intellectual programming to an hour,” Pillay said the more serious content on youth radio needs to be “broken down into bite-size chunks” and integrated into everyday radio so that listeners can have continue to have interest.

Pillay did say that having a great physical presence in society appeals to the young people. This thought was shared by Makate who added that being on the ground allows young people accessibility to bring and discuss issues that affect them.

My thoughts

A great deal of the conversation that took place today was great in the sense that it stressed the importance of the inclusion of young people into all forms of broadcast media.

Generation Y (or is it X?) as we are known is the future and it is essential that the previous generation of broadcast media pioneers consider our relevance in an increasingly digital society, one which we understand and can navigate through better.

While there is the understanding that there needs to be a greater presence of youth radio in society, there seems to be a disconnect in the ways that this could be established. “Mindless fluff” works just fine for many young people and some radio stations capitalise on this but I think that in doing so, they have ignorantly chosen to look past other, more relevant issues and ideas relevant to young people.

It’s a challenging process to integrate the new with the old but it is something that needs to happen.

Even though there are some disparities in the way this process is supposed to occur it is encouraging to see that there are debates and efforts towards this end.