Five years ago, Johannesburg-based community station Radio Today was on the brink of collapse, with SARS pounding at its door for unpaid taxes. Last week, it celebrated having paid off all its debts after half a decade of uphill battle by a largely volunteer board of directors.
In March 2004, Radio Today was summonsed by SARS and had judgment taken against it to pay all outstanding taxes in two payments over a month. It wasn't able to do so and SARS notified the station that it would be closed down within 24 hours.
Volunteer MD Dr Ivan May, who had only just joined the board, contacted the Media Development & Diversity Agency, which rose to the task instantly and lobbied SARS to give Radio Today another chance.
Thanks to the MDDA intervention, Radio Today was given a breather and the rest is history.
May and his volunteer board have succeeded in paying off R4 million in taxes and interest and last week reached a situation where it is entirely up to date with SARS. In addition to paying all the PAYE, all the SITE, all the UIF and other minor taxes, Radio Today has also paid a quarter of a million rand in licence fees to SAMRO.
Classic case history
This achievement by Radio Today is an example of the sustainability of community radio in South Africa and an abject lesson in just what happens when ailing media applies itself with passion and determination to overcome what might appear to be insurmountable obstacles.
Given May's marketing background and stature, there is no question that this was also a lesson to other media about how marketing-led business strategy plays such a crucial role in revenue generation. Something very few mass media in this country understand.
Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
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