The 11th edition of World Radio Day is celebrated on 13 February 2024, and its purpose is to raise greater awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio, and to bring people and communities from all backgrounds together, in order to create dialogue for positive change.
Radio in the South African context remains an extremely important medium. Unlike many countries globally, radio over the past years continues to experience an increase in listenership in SA despite the threat that has come with technological developments.
For South Africans, a large portion of the population still has no TV and live under dire circumstances, and therefore rely on the radio for news, sports, announcements from government and other forms of entertainment.
You can tell the richness of the medium through the fact that SA has 40 commercial and PBS (Public Broadcast Stations) and a whooping 284 community stations. Another beautiful component about South African radio is the role it has played in representation and celebrating the diversity in our languages. ALL of South Africa’s 11 languages are represented within the frequency spectrum. Thanks to the public broadcaster and other game players, from isiZulu to isiNdebele to Afrikaans and Khoisan communities, no one has been left out.
It is also evident how impactful radio is by the tense category it has become at the annual Momentum gsport Awards. Each and every year we wait eagerly to hear which three finalists will be gunning for the coveted title. And eventually, from the three, who will walk away victorious. This category has been so competitive, tough to vote for and judge because the quality and standard of competition is so high.
With that said, radio presenters, news and sports anchors have a huge responsibility to entertain and inform in an impartial way. There must be a purpose and bottom line to content that is produced and curated for listeners. For women’s sport to grow and get maximum coverage, a massive role is played by the sports show presenters and sports anchors.
Which story to cover when, local vs international, female sport stories vs male counterparts? These decisions will inadvertently influence if, for example, a listener knows or cares to know what the update is on Banyana Banyana and where they can watch the Proteas women.
The number of women presenting sports shows on radio has improved over the years. The same applies as well to sports anchors, roles that have been occupied for years and years by men.
Can we say that we are satisfied with the representation and voices of women in SA radio? 2021 and 2022 Woman in Radio gsport award winner Cato Louw: “At the moment, yes. But I also think there are still a lot of voices that are not being chosen. We need to change the narrative that women know sport and are also capable of delivering it in both an informative and entertaining manner and that doesn’t happen overnight, as much as I want it too. We are getting there though thanks to the efforts of the current women occupying the space and those before me, who kicked open the doors and got a seat at the table.”
As much as there are many kids hoping to finally read a sports bulletin on the 947 or Metro FM, Louw highlights that the advancement of technology has opened more opportunities.
“I also want to commend the creativity with which the current generation are approaching sports media whether it is through a podcast, content creation on various social media platforms, interviews etc – the landscape is also so different, there are more channels than just radio or TV, to tell sports stories and I think those that are passionate and persistent enough are being seen, even if it’s not on a radio slot.”
Louw epitomises “Power of Recognition,” she’s dominated the radio category twice on the gsport stage and her career has been growing in leaps.
“It was just such a career highlight to go back to back in the radio category! Every year it’s just such a beautifully talented space – so thanks again gsport fam! For me radio is all about consistency in the execution as well as excellence, education and entertainment when it comes to the content – so it has spurred me on to keep those things at the centre of a sports bulletins.
“Above all that is to always put the listener first. No matter what happens behind the scenes, a computer freezing, a mic falling down, you having a bad day – it doesn’t matter because the listener is expecting a good sports bulletin and I have the absolute honour of delivering it to them – all behind the scenes things are always put aside when you go live.”
As radio continues to be a major player in South African media, we still need to self-correct and keep checking what can be done better to ensure that more women are given opportunities without and fear or favour. We need to keep using it as a tool in our bid to push the envelope for women’s sport.
Louw adds: “ We need to be on the hunt for the women’s sports stories. Don’t just expect them to fall in your lap via multiple PR/media agencies or representatives. You need to actively follow and engage with women’s teams especially when it comes to our national teams because if you cover the men’s team announcement, surely you should do the same for the women’s team?
“And then the reverse as well, if you are a female athlete/team media officer – make sure those press releases and fixtures get to journalists so they have the information needed to accurately engage the audience and deliver it effortlessly as you would for a male athlete/team.
“Women’s sport is growing and in order to keep it growing and eventually blossom we need to be active participants in its journey. Go watch games, engage with social media profiles, ask for interviews, help out where you can so we can all thrive. Sport is supposed to be for everyone, that is why it’s such a powerful thing.”
In 2024, the 11th annual World Radio Day is devoted to the theme: “Radio and Trust”, and the event is split into (1) Trust in radio journalism – to produce independent and high-quality content; (2) Trust and accessibility – to take care of the audience; and (3) Trust and viability of radio stations – to ensure that radio can survive through financial crises.
Photo Caption: The 11th edition of World Radio Day is celebrated on 13 February 2024, and its purpose is to raise greater awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio, and to bring people and communities from all backgrounds together, in order to create dialogue for positive change. Lonwabo Nkohla talks with two-time Momentum gsport Awards winner Cato Louw about broadcasters using this powerful tool that is radio. Photos: Supplied