Event Reports

#radiowontfall, but it will adapt

by Brigitte Read

Radio Days Africa Conference 2016 in Johannesburg

Radio is not only the oldest medium, but also the most significant and accessible in Africa – more than 30 million listeners tune in daily in South Africa alone. Though it has mass appeal, radio still manages to connect to people in a particularly intimate way. As Franz Kruger, Director of the Wits Radio Academy says, “the essence of radio is not its technical platform or programming formats, it is the way in which it relates to people through the power of sound.”

Radio’s innovations and ability to touch lives were explored at the annual Radio Days Africa conference in Johannesburg recently. Hosted for the seventh consecutive year by the Wits Radio Academy, under the auspices of the University of the Witwatersrand Journalism Department, it has become the premier gathering of radio leaders and influencers on the African continent. Attended by over 200 delegates, this year’s over-arching theme was #radiowontfall, referencing the university protests last year around fees.

The opening session saw Director of BBC Radio Helen Boaden, Group Executive of SABC Radio, Leslie Ntloko, 702 Station Manager Thabisile Mbete and journalist Daryl Ilbury discuss the state of radio, trends in innovation and technology and the relationship between audiences and radio brands in a changing landscape. What emerged was a complex picture of transition, yet a view that it is the human component that will save radio – amidst the wash of technical innovations people are mostly looking for a sense of connection.

BBC Radio’s Helen Boaden outlined some of the ground-breaking innovations at the UK public service; the BBC iPlayer app has more than 10 million downloads, meaning listeners who used to only listen live can now download podcasts of individual programmes.

The entire US radio model it seems is shifting to podcast. And an important new component of this is the possibility of sharing – packaging audio content that people can share via social media.

Tech trend expert Arthur Goldstruck further expanded on this theme by highlighting how crucial a brand’s presence is in a digital space in engaging with audiences and how simplicity, utility and focus – and interactive displays – are the key to future success.

Other future-focused sessions looked at how data can be used to innovate and stay ahead of the competition and the internet-enable Connected Car which has the potential to disrupt an area where radio has previously dominated.

The conference also offered a practical component with masterclasses on airchecking, imaging and field reporting. RNTV trainer Jonathan Groubert outlined the art of factual storytelling to make your audience care about the news.

There were also sessions showcasing groundbreaking radio projects across the continent - from promoting sexual well-being in Zambia’s youth to catering to the African diaspora, education activism and linking social media and radio in conflict zones like Burundi and Libya, reminding us of the true power of radio to touch lives in Africa. A new investigative journalism podcast series Africa Investigates, showcased how they exposed corruption and off-shore links of prominent African figures to a wider audience.

After three information-packed days, the message that the Radio Days Africa attendees were left with was that even if the medium is transforming, it remains the content that has the potential to make a difference in the world.

Listen to the audio podcasts of the Radio Days Africa 2016 conference sessions on iono and iTunes.

Contact Person

Christoph Plate

Christoph Plate bild

Director Media Programme Subsahara Africa

christoph.plate@kas.de +27 11 214 29 00 +27 11 214 2913
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