Radio’s resilience: 100 years of broadcasting in South Africa 

“Seventy percent of South Africans get their main source of news from radio, and it’s still considered the most trusted source in the country,” said Head of Regulatory Affairs, Julia Sham-Guild. 

The Wits Centre for Journalism (WCJ) joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at their Radio Park auditorium to celebrate World Radio Day on February 13, 2024.  

Director of the WCJ, Dr. Dinesh Balliah and SABC radio general manager, Siphelele Sixaso extended a warm welcome to all media practitioners who gathered to commemorate the centenary milestone.

“Of course, we will go down memory lane to honour the legends that have graced our airways and dedicated their lives to the mission of informing, educating and entertaining the radio-loving listener,” said Sixaso.   

The WCJ strategically chose this day, to launch their state of the newsroom report titled, ‘100 years of radio broadcasting’. Published annually by the centre, the report looks at emerging issues in South Africa’s media landscape and fosters public discourse. The 2022 edition investigated the evolution of radio broadcasting in South Africa, featuring nine articles by experienced media professionals. 

SAfm radio broadcaster, Cathy Mohlahlana led the first session of the day, a discussion on public interest radio and it’s role in the democratic process. She was joined by the director of Radiocracy, Robin Sewlal and SABC’s head of advertising media strategy, Florence Kikine.  

Sewlal agreed with Kikine’s perspective that “radio is the original social media,” and a two-way stream where the broadcasters and audiences engage interactively, something which has sustained the medium through the years.

The first radio station in the country started broadcasting on December 18, 1923, while the early 1950’s marked the introduction of broadcasting in indigenous languages. Presently, South Africa has 40 commercial and public broadcast stations, along with 284 community stations. “The latter number is staggering, considering that community radio only launched as a sector less than 30 years ago,” wrote Balliah in the preface of the report.  

Despite the “staggering” growth, media consultant, Jayshree Pather added that community stations face challenges of being under-resourced and lacking sufficient funding which contributes to their underdevelopment. 

The idea of ‘content is king’ garnered different perspectives among panelists and audience members. Kikine said listeners increasingly influence what broadcasters talk about on air and warned against discussing topics that resonate with a select few instead of the broader community.  

Shaking his head, Sewlal said a topic should be discussed despite its narrow focus because it can be significant for some individuals or educate others. “Take care of the quality, and the quantity will take care of itself,” he said.  

A debate about podcasts versus traditional radio soon followed. Talk radio host, Morio Sanyane said people opt for podcasts because they have absolute freedom to discuss a variety of topics while broadcast practitioners are governed by codes and ethics of journalism which can curtail their scope.     

Radio broadcast student, Mzwakhe Radebe made his preference for podcasts clear, saying that they are more relatable and personal. “No offence but nobody listens to SABC in my class,” said Radebe. 

“When young people say that they are disillusioned and don’t feel accessed it means that the stories that we’re telling don’t speak to them, it’s not that the story is not important, “said Balliah. She further expressed the need to build a future for radio to ensure that it survives for another 100 years. However, this is a challenging task considering the loss of over a million listeners in 2022, according to the report.


Idols SA judge suspended after twitter rant

Idols SA judge and Metro FM presenter, Unathi Msengana, has been suspended from the radion station following a Twitter spat in which she called a Wits student a “psycho bi**h”.

Popular Idols SA judge and  Metro FM breakfast DJ,  Unathi Msengana, was suspended from her show this week following a twitter rant that was directed at a Wits student.

The twar erupted following an on-air interview the DJ conducted with Stellenbosch University student Anelisiwe Mdube about the documentary Luister, and the student’s experiences of being lectured in Afrikaans.

The hashtag #UnathiBeLike trended as social media users criticised the DJ for not allowing Mdube to properly express her views.

Wits University student, Palomino Jama, tweeted: “Wife gets beaten by husband. Unathi: Why didn’t you become a lesbian? You married him knowing men can be abusive”.

Jama’s timeline indicates that the she received a number of private direct messages from Msengana the next morning.

“You’re a fu**ing idiot if you think so … You are fu**ing delusional if you think you can get personal. Fu** your stupid mind. No amount is going to change our realities. You psycho bi**h. Fu** you twice over,” read some of the messages.

Jama then responded on Twitter with: “Nothing warrants me being fu**ed twice over or being called a psycho bi**h by a woman who is old enough to be my mother. Someone I had respect for.”

SABC spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, told Destiny magazine that “the questions she (Msengana) asked on air were valid and there was nothing wrong with her questions. We have no control over DJs and what they do in their private space, but our DJs should know that they are representatives of the brand”.

Following Msengana’s suspension Jama tweeted: “ I am not happy about what has happened to Sis Unathi. I honestly just wish the whole thing never happened.”

Jama told Wits Vuvuzela “I regret the outcome of her being suspended. That was never the intention. Mine is just raising awareness for Luister, clarifying the misconceptions and helping people understand so we can all stand in solidarity evoking change for the Black students of Stellies.”

It is still unclear when, or if Msengana will be returning to her show as the SABC says they first need to discuss the matter with her. Msengana has since released a statement in which she apologised for her reaction on Twitter. “I felt badly violated in my personal life and my personal beliefs … However, as upset as I was at that time, I should not have used offensive language”.

Media gathering takes off in Johannesburg


NEW TOOLS: Laura Grant of the Mail&Guardian demonstrated some new applications for producing digital journalism. PHOTO: Katleho Sekhotho.

The 2015 Menell Media Exchange conference started today at Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg. 

Some of South Africa’s most respected journalists, media practitioners, educators and students joined international visitors and guests for the second Menell Media Exchange conference.

Peter Ndoro, Lester Kiewet and Jeremy Maggs were some of the prominent speakers and guests on the first day of the conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, which focused primarily on training and workshops.

Themed as “innovation, brand and sustainability”, the opening panels focused on brand building by individuals and journalists in particular. Veteran journalist Gus Silber provided key insights into the use of social media for journalism and as a tool for journalists to increase their visibility.

The Mail & Guardian’s Laura Grant and SABC’s Tegan Bedser, demonstrated various apps that can be used in digital storytelling. 

Jeremy Maggs joined eNCA’s Patrick Conroy on a panel that explored the difficult subject of funding journalism in ways that does not impede it.

Andrew Phelps, senior product manager for the New York Times, gave the afternoon keynote address and stressed the importance of innovation in newsrooms.

The conference continues tomorrow.

SABC COO calls for more media regulation

UNDER FIRE : Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SABC COO listens to questions from audience members at Johannesburg Radio Days conference.

UNDER FIRE : Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SABC COO, listens to questions from audience members during a heated discussion at the morning session of the Joburg Radio Days conference. Photo: Luca Kotton

“We need to regulate media generally,” said  Hlaudi Motsoeneng during  a heated discussion about the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation), at this morning’s opening session of the Joburg’s Radio Days conference at Wits University.

The SABC acting COO (Chief Operations Office), added that “if you are a journalist and you don’t have ethics and you mislead […] we need to take your license.”

Motsoeneng was part of panel of speakers that included Prof Anton Harber, head of Wits Journalism and SOS Support Public Broadcasting coordinator Sekoetlane Phamodi.

The session was titled “20 years of democratic public radio” but quickly shifted focus to the SABC and its mandate as a public broadcaster.

Harber set the tone for the discussion by reflecting on the ideal-typical role of a public broadcaster in a democracy. In reference to South Africa’s public broadcaster he said, “Why does the SABC seldom produce good journalism and not set a high bar for quality journalism?”

Phamodi spoke about maladministration at executive levels of the SABC and said, “What happens right at the top of the SABC really does filter down the value chain of the SABC and into our homes.”

Motsoeneng, clearly upset by some of the comments of his fellow panelists, referred to Harber and Phamodi as “people who talk about what they think and not what they know.”

Listen to some of Motsoeneng’s comments here.

Motsoeneng said the SABC is one of the best run organisations in the country and said that he will continue to insist on 70% of good news at the SABC.

“Let me tell what we have done, and you don’t need a degree to do this, you need a brain … You need to be a visionary, you need to have a strategy.”

Motsoeneng said that in order to undo the “brainwashing” that journalism students undergo at university-based journalism schools, the SABC will establish a school to train its own journalists.


Follow our live blog of the conference here.




One step closer to One Day Leader


Seadimo Tlale, One Day Leader number 2, dominating at debating.  Photo: Facebook

Seadimo Tlale, One Day Leader number 2, dominating at debating.
Photo: Facebook

Seadimo Tlale is the last Witsie standing in SABC’s One Day Leader contest.

The show that aims to find future leaders of the country will soon be coming to an end. With only 3 contestants left, the pressure is on for Tlale to represent Wits, as well as being the last female in the competition.

When asked what got her this far in the competition, Tlale said: “People like the way I reason and stand by what I believe in regardless of what anybody says.”

Known for her skills in debating, Tlale can proudly say that she has won the most debates this season, despite the fact that she is the youngest contestant to ever make it this far.

“The quality that made me stand out the most was that people were amazed about how age is not a factor for me. I go out and achieve what I set to do,” said Tlale.

The finale airs on Mothers Day, Sunday May 12, where the decision will be made on who will be South Africa’s One Day Leader 2013.

With faith and assurance, Tlale is ready to go all the way. She said: “I have overcome great obstacles by challenging very strong opponents with confidence.”

To support your fellow Witsie SMS “Leader 2” to 34068.

Nandos advert banned because of insensitivity to Xenophobia

Fast-food chain Nandos is contesting the ban on its advert that the SABC deemed to have a “xenophobic undertone”.

The advert starts with the line “You know what is wrong with South Africa? It’s all you foreigners”. The advert then depicts the broad span of ethnic groups that live in South Africa disappearing in puffs of smoke, leaving only a Koi San man, who then says to the camera, “I’m not going anywhere. You *@!$ found us here.”

The follow up is “real South African’s love diversity”, with a promotion of a new meal package.

The SABC refused to run the ad due it its “xenophobic undertones”. Spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told Business Day, “By the time they get to the diversity message, people could have interpreted it in any which way.”

“With foreigners being attacked in South Africa, our concern is that it might re-enforce that … We are in no way interested in commercial gain over the public’s interest,” Kganyago said.

e-TV and DSTV, who had initially aired the ads, then followed suit and also stopped airing the ad.

Nando’s marketing manager Thabang Ramogase believes the response on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook has confirmed that the majority of South Africans had enjoyed the satire and understood the message of the ad.

“I’m puzzled by how the media owners have actually banned the commercial, they’ve completely misunderstood it, and I’m incredibly disappointed because I think it says a lot about freedom of speech and freedom of expression in South Africa,” said Quinton Cronje, Nandos’ marketing director.

The Advertising Standards Authority will deal with the dispute, however all broadcasters do have the right to not air advertisements if they chose, on the grounds of taste. An ASA stamp of approval may not be enough to get the commercial back on air.

Nandos marketing team is supposedly already formulating a come-back advert to make light of the banning.

Nandos has a used comical advertising which pushes on South African issues, and has received bans before. Most recently, Nandos ran an advert in which a Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe look-alike sat alone at a large dinner table, remembering the “good old days”, with scenes depicting him having fun with other famous dictators who are now deceased.

View “Nandos Diversity” and “The Last Dictator Standing”