Behind the Business: YFM

Image: 123RF/tzido.

YFM has been a part of youth culture for decades in South Africa. Boasting global talents like DJ Fresh, Mo Flava and Oskido, the radio station has been a vital force in supporting local talent.

With a more than three decades shining a light on young SA talent, here is a look back at what makes YFM an iconic SA business.

Bold beginnings

With kwaito and house music rapidly dominating the airwaves in the '90s, young South Africans turned to YFM for the latest bops in the genres. According to Gavin Steinge’s Kwaito’s Promise: Music and the Aesthetics of Freedom in South Africa, the station’s first broadcast was in 1997 and it played music exclusively. Oddly, very few listeners even knew what the station was called.

Turning new pages

A year after YFM had had spread its wings, the station launched Y-Mag, a publication which extended its dedication to the issues affecting young South Africans from different racial or cultural backgrounds. The magazine was headed by noted journalists Sibusiso “General” Nxumalo and Itumeleng Mahabane in its founding years before moving to a digital identity by the end of the noughties.

Schoolin’ a new era of talents

Showing no signs of slowing down, YFM opened its doors to young audiences through the Y Academy. A programme that assisted DJs with a six-months programme to join the world of radio.

Going green

YFM collaborated with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to motivate its listeners to rethink their modes of transport.

Controversies

With a history of multiple changes in staff and editorial members, one of the biggest issues to face YFM was a backlash towards CEO Kathan PIllay who was revealed to have been bullying staff at the station in a series of tweets from former staff members Black Coffee, DJ Fresh and Thando Thabethe. Celebrated SA musician Cassper Nyovest also took to Twitter to blast the station following issues he faced regarding airplay of his music.

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