/ 29 September 2022

SABC radio preserving culture through local music

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X-K FM, which protects and preserves the !Xun and Khwe languages, achieved a 90% quota for playing local music

 The SABC has a responsibility to build a common identity for all South African citizens by offering vibrant programming for miscellaneous generations and championing good moral values, while celebrating everything African. This mandate is meticulously delivered through educational, informative and entertaining programmes. By prioritising local music on its platforms,  the SABC is preserving culture and heritage, which forms an important part of the daily content delivery on SABC radio platforms.

Music has a unique and powerful ability to form culture and bring people together, despite the language used for the rendition. Solid music playlists dominate the SABC’s daily radio clocks to ensure that the diversity of South African cultures is reflected accordingly. Each of the SABC’s 19 radio stations specifically cater for a specific target audience, presenting great opportunities to schedule and play songs composed and performed in a language and sound that resonates with the specific audience. 

The SABC is one of the few public service broadcasters worldwide mandated to serve diverse audiences, and the only one in South Africa. It is thus incomparable with other broadcasters in the country in terms of how it is held accountable by the broadcasting regulatory authority, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

The provision of music on SABC platforms is not a “pick and choose” scenario, but a mandatory requirement as stipulated in the regulations by ICASA. For example, the local music regulations enjoins the SABC to play 70% local music on its public service stations, except for the public commercial stations and Lotus FM, which have a minimum quota of 35%. 

Over the years, the SABC has exceeded these set local music quotas. The latest figures from the first quarter of the fiscal demonstrate over-performance for all SABC radio stations. All PBS radio stations surpassed the set 70% quota, with Lotus FM going slightly over its allocation of 35%, while PCS stations also topped their 35% quota, with Metro FM delivering an average of 49% local music. During this period, it is noteworthy to highlight the exceptional performance of X-K FM, with the station achieving 90% local music quota. X-K FM is a dedicated station with an important mandate of promoting, protecting and preserving the !Xun and Khwe languages and cultures. In addition, Ligwalagwala FM achieved 87% while Umhlobo Wenene FM reached the 81% mark.

Although the set local quotas by ICASA primarily determine these numbers, they are equally driven by the SABC’s quest to support and develop the music industry. Over the last years, the SABC has been able to pay royalties to composers through the relevant collecting society, which represents music artists in South Africa. Needletime royalties, contested for many years, have also started being disbursed by the SABC through the two official collecting societies, IMPRA and SAMPRA.

The SABC fully understands the impact and influence it has in the music industry in relation to the prioritisation of local music on its platforms. For example, staying true to its brand promise of making memories through music everyday with its listeners, Radio 2000 records an average of 260 songs in a full 24-hour period with 140 to 150 songs during a local content performance period.  Metro FM plays an average of over 175 songs a day, with local music accounting for more than 45% of the playlist, recording a 10% increase in the set licence conditions of the station. In addition, Ukhozi FM records about 70% of local music from an average of over 140 songs played in one day. These numbers are an indication of the SABC’s commitment to promote and defend the local music market, thereby uplifting the livelihoods of South African artists by supporting a sustainable music industry. 

Artists are always encouraged to submit their music directly to various radio stations. Each station has a music committee, and all music submitted is subjected to the music policies of the respective stations. These processes are put in place to avoid any unfortunate situations, including payola, which the SABC views in a serious light. The SABC strongly condemns payola as it undermines the governance processes of the public broadcaster and the hard work of other artists. 

Radio stations continuously engage with artists to ensure that sufficient support is provided to empower them with the right information. The recent workshop by Munghana Lonene FM, our Limpopo-based radio station with artists, is one such effort to ensure that artists are informed about the various processes which should be followed. In these kinds of engagements, the artists are equipped with information pertaining to music submission for airplay and understanding the sound of the station as well as the listeners it caters to and appeals to. 

Other creative initiatives besides the playlists on radio stations have been embarked on to ensure greater appreciation and advance the agenda of the promotion culture through local music. These include the Munghana Lonene FM Music Awards, which are aimed at honouring the musicians who have contributed significantly to the Xitsonga music industry. Unplugged on-air sessions and full-on concerts are also staged by various radio stations to provide artists with performance opportunities as well as platforms to connect with their target markets. 

The SABC continues to collaborate with the relevant stakeholders for the growth, promotion and development of the South African music industry. 

Mmoni Seapolelo is the SABC’s Manager for Media Relations