Radio waves hit choppy seas

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Radio competition has never been so fierce with a number of stations repositioning themselves to gain a competitive advantage over each other after announcing new presenters and programmes.

While the most significant competition is between urban English radio stations and African language radio stations whose listenership in some cases overlap, the fight for listeners will become fiercer when new commercial regional stations are introduced in Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has already held hearings for the new stations featuring such well-known radio personalities as Given Mkhari and Shonisani Muleya.

The announcement of the winning bid for these stations is still on hold, but it will be interesting to see if the current regional stations will survive the competition from the newcomers when they are eventually introduced.

In addition to regional stations, there are also community radio stations operating in these areas, each with a loyal listenership.

The same question arises when new regional stations are introduced in North West and Mpumalanga. Will Motsweding FM, for instance, survive the onslaught from the new kids on the block?

In other words, are there enough listeners for all the stations to be commercially viable?

It is a well-known fact that in a multilingual society many people listen to two or more stations broadcasting in different languages.

Radio audience measurement figures provide a few pointers.

South African Advertising Research Foundation figures released in February show that audiences remained unchanged for many stations.

During the same week it was reported that no station had managed to win over significantly more listeners.

This clearly points to even tougher competition when the new regional stations are introduced.