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Talk radio in danger

South Africa is gifted with a number of really good talk show hosts. The likes of Redi Thlabi, Xolani Gwala, Jeremy Maggs and John Perlman can compete with their international peers. The experience and skills that they possesses is enormous and one needs to applaud them for the time they have taken to perfect their craft.
Having said that, this does not mean the future is bright for South African talk radio. I am yet to see young and upcoming talk show hosts being given an opportunity by major talk stations in this country. Most radio stations tend to rely on roping in celebrities who have no broadcasting experience or journalistic background, to be part of the line-up with the sole aim of increasing the figures to suit advertisers. Being well known nowadays is becoming a ticket to get into broadcasting. What then, are the up-and-coming journalists who want to do talk radio to do?

I have been privileged to work for SAfm for about five years and monitored various talk radio station in terms of the quality of presenters. Though stations go out of their way to attract the best talent there is, what we also see now is a recycling of the same presenters. They move from one station to another doing more or less the same thing, with money being the only difference.

New talent needs to be attracted, groomed

Stations are failing dismally to groom young journalists and young broadcasters to learn the craft of talk radio. Although young people seem to be more interested in music than hard news, radio stations have a role to play to attract new talent.

One cannot put the blame at radio stations only. Universities and colleges teaching journalism and media studies should make the course interesting and harvest the talent that is there. Rhodes University has an excellent focused journalism curriculum and many well-known journalists were groomed there. This cannot be done without supporting student institutions such us campus radio stations and newspapers.

It's time to talk - or the talk-show format is in trouble

Unisa Radio has recently been launched, one of the few if not only campus radio stations that offers talk radio format for students. Many have come to the radio station wanting to be music presenters and DJs rather than producers and talk show hosts. The traditional talk show format is in trouble unless we start attracting interest amongst young radio broadcasters.

The time for South African prime talk show hosts will soon be over, young South Africans will have to take the button.

About the author

Tali Munzhedzi is a deputy station manager at UNISA Radio. The radio station strives to be amongst the few if not only campus radio stations to provide the talk radio format to students and staff. To listen to UNISA Radio go to, to contact Tali Munzhedzi email .
Sandra Pow Chong
There is some truth to your article Talo and therefore I do agree with some aspects of it however I don't think that talk radio is a dying 'topic' if one can call it that. I do a weekend radio show on a community station and although it isn't one of the so called "big players" in the commercial market it does appeal to a certain niche market. My show specifically has a lot of talk content and although the majority of the content aired from the station is mostly music my show differs in this sense. Every Saturday I have a slot called 'Smart Talk with the Experts' in which I focus on the various industries in Nelson Mandela Bay this has spanned from renewable energy to automotive, to topics which hit home harder such as abortion/ rape and health and wellness in the workplace. This feature slot I very much look forward to as the intention behind it is to educate and inform our listeners. Too many stations just talk about things you can read in the newspaper, that's too easy because how much more is learnt than what they have already read? If you bring in specialists in their field who can share what developments are happening in our very own city then this draws far greater interest and also updates listeners on what is happening around them. I'm 25 years old and a graduate in Journalism from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. My show is called the Urban Brunch on Kingfisher FM and airs Saturday and Sunday from 10am - 2pm on 103.8 and 107.5. I see myself as a presenter not a DJ and would like to become a well respected talk show host of a show that educates and informs the greater population of South Africans and it is not for the fame of fortune that I do this but to also offer an equal platform to many to air their opinions in an unbiased manner.
Posted on 3 Jul 2012 13:14
Michelle Jacobs
The seasoned talk show hosts you mention should embark on training young talent.
Posted on 3 Jul 2012 13:56
Lelo Mzaca
I see where you are coming from, Tali, and I do agree about the “danger” that talk radio could face in the future. As a young broadcaster, the perspective is that young journalists are not given enough platforms by the big players in this genre of broadcast to practice and develop their skills behind their microphones. Their training slots are reserved for the inexperienced chancers but not the young and qualified. When I’m talking about young journalist I’m referring to people in their late teens to their late twenties. In my experience, I have found that a number of talk radio stations have a “minimum age” requirement before they can even look at you CV or give you an audition. The reason I once heard is that one needs to have certain “life experience” to be able to hold down a commercial talk radio show. What a load of hogwash!There are a many young talk-show hosts in community radio stations who are in need of their big break but by the time they have reached the “minimum age” required to be given a chance, they have to compete with commonplace public figures who have a tendency of using radio to make a quick buck. Some of the community radio veterans just lose patience and passion and end up being swallowed by the corporate world because at the end of the day they simply have bills to pay. In simple sports terms, there is a lack of adequate generational transformation and youth development in commercial talk-radio. This is the reason why we see a lot of presenter-recycling and so-called celebrities given radio jobs that should really be handed to young journalists who are spending their lives trying to make a career out of this vocation called journalism. Twitter: @LeloMzaca
Posted on 3 Jul 2012 15:35
Prudence Mtshatsheni
You have a point there,celebrities are just air headed individuals who breath to make money and sell their status.We as the students need to take a stand and fight for our platforms.We study hard to be the anchors of the news in the country,we need to let the industry that we are available and ready to give back to the Institutions and communities that have groomed us
Posted on 3 Jul 2012 15:59
david blood
Until I was 30 I would never have listened to talk radio, who gave a crap about politics and legal matters or money talk - I was too busy having fun - oh yes I forgot we never had talk radio it wasn't allowed under the Nats.Talk radio will not die quietly, as people get older their values change, they take more interest in current affairs and politics as they become more concerned for their children and family values. You don't need young talk show hosts as they would have no audience, talk radio requires you to be a student of the University of Life with a voice of authority and personal experience, it also requires that you are able to communicate in something other than SMS speak. So I think you are somewhat disillusioned Tali and don't worry the veterans will all get dumped in favour of younger presenters as ill-informed programme directors chase the money stream of youth.
Posted on 3 Jul 2012 21:19
Lelo Mzaca
David, I respect your view but allow me volunteer mine to you. Today many young people, such as myself, do care about legal matters, money and politics. You need only to monitor social media to see just how much young people care about sharing their opinions with the community and the world about a whole host of subjects. We are not all about music, sex, drugs and parties as perceived. For example Y-FM, during its first generation of DJs, had a slot called the Youth Crossfire which was hosted by the young and talented Paul “Rudeboy” Mnisi. It was a show that dealt with various topics affecting the youth and it was very successful. Another one was P.Y.G. by Khaba “Khabzela” Fana. Both Presenters/DJs, especially Mnisi, were young when they started hosting their shows. Despite their ages they had voices of authority without talking down at their audience. They also had enough life experiences to relate with their audience and both slots had considerable listenership figures. I have worked in radio since 2004 and in my observation I feel that many young people are hungry for talk radio content dedicated to them. With that said, I disagree that programme directors are dumping veterans to chase the money stream of youth. Many veterans are recycled from station to station. The youth is often ignored by many programme directors by virtue of their age. The potential of young people is often undermined by the “You don't need young talk show hosts as they would have no audience, talk radio requires you to be a student of the University of Life with a voice of authority and personal experience…” kind of thinking. You were young and inexperienced at one stage of your career. I also looked up to you when we worked together at RADIO-TODAY. As young people we need people such as you to be for us and not against us. The youth, with discipline, education and determination should be respected, groomed and given a chance to secure the quality and future of talk radio in South Africa. - Twitter: @LeloMzaca
Posted on 4 Jul 2012 11:23
PJ van Rooyen
I agree with you Lelo. As a sports journalist trying his utmost to get his big break at a radio station, let alone a talk station, it has become one of the most frustrating activities I have embarked on. The problem I have, is that when a young 'unknown' in the industry looks to the market leaders in talk and news, he/she is lucky to even receive a reply from the organisations. Numerous mails and CVs have been submitted but no replies are returned. From a motivational POV, it does not evoke much confidence when the people/organisations one looks to for inspiration, simply does not take one seriously. I am 21 and have wanted nothing more to do the job that you, Lelo Mzaca occupy, yet I have only been shown a closed door. I could be the best choice an organisation makes all year, but that leap of faith, or trace of interest not only falls short, but is not existent.
Posted on 16 Aug 2012 13:08