Industry Loop | Let me radio you!

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Industry Loop | Let me radio you!


A conversation with a random dude at a cuca shop in Herero location this week proved a few things that I am going to unearth in detail. The dude who initiated the conversation heard from someone nearby that I am in the radio business. In true predatory fashion, he seized the opportunity to pitch his idea of a radio show. Unfortunately, he was too excited to pitch his idea for a radio show and forgot to introduce himself.

So, we will give him a name; let’s call him Tjipeze.  Tjipeze’s proposition? A Christian radio show.

But as he was pitching, I could tell that Tjipeze has zero clue on how the business end of radio works. I had to stop Tjipeze halfway and walk him through a couple of things. The impromptu information session turned into a group/community session. Again, I cannot stress this enough, it’s amazing how the ordinary Namibian does not understand the business end of the radio industry.

Also, I’ve written extensively about this in the last eight years of anchoring #IndustryLoop, but I guess with the Land of the Brave repetition is gold because as per Namibian culture, it’s relevant today and forgotten about tomorrow. 

In a Namibian context, there are three types of radio structures: community/public broadcast radio, campus radio, and commercial radio. Community/public by world standards should be two separate factors, but in a Namibian context, one has to put these in one entity, simply because they are both ‘non-profit’ structures. This means the bottom line is not really to make money. This type of radio structure does not seem to be working in Namibia at the moment. As much as you want to offer a service, radio itself is an expensive craft – from transmitters, maintenance to frequency fees, human resources, etc. all cost a fortune. Base FM would be a great case study as they are close to extinction, because it’s simply not sustainable to depend on donor funding and community goodwill. Also, donor funding dried up the minute Namibia got classified as a middle upper-income country. This is why the NBC (referring to its radio brands) is on an aggressive commercialisation drive because it cannot, in today’s complex times, sit and wait on its principal shareholder to bail them out. 

Campus radio is managed and owned by its principal university. Usually, these are set up to serve as practical exercises for media students and secondarily to amplify campus pride. There’s little to no money in it.

The third type of radio – commercial radio – is a full-blown business where airtime is a commodity. 

So where would Tjipeze’s proposed Christian show fit in? Ordinarily at a community/public broadcaster. However, the question now is, do these platforms really need another Christian show? What proof (research and development) does Tjipeze have that the Namibian radio landscape needs another Christian show? Also…who is Tjipeze? What credentials does he have?

With that said, whatever radio proposal you may have, do your research. Understand the market, do not ignore the Namibian context of it all. At this point in the conversation, Tjipeze and everyone else who were listening were all shocked into silence.


Until the next Loop, we say #GMTM

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