Thousands of Indian-origin South Africans have joined hands to save an iconic community radio station after national broadcast body imposed a 90 per cent local content quota on its radio stations. The 33-year-old Lotus FM has lost more than a third of its listeners after the imposition of the local content quota by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in June.
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SABC executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng has resisted calls from the community to allow the station to play more Indian music.
Motsoeneng has been adamant that all the 18 radio stations in the public broadcast portfolio play South African music in all the eleven official indigenous languages of the country.
Lotus FM supporters have seen the popular music in Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Punjabi, Gujarati and Telugu from Hindi films dwindle to a fraction of its output because of the quota restriction, while listeners have resisted songs in languages such as Zulu and Xhosa which the station is now compelled to play.
Local content by South African Indian artistes is restricted in terms of both quality and quantity, as there is no full-time Indian music industry in the country.
“The authoritarian imposition of 90 per cent local content on SABC radio stations has jeopardised the future of this iconic radio station. Since May 2016, Lotus FM has lost a third of its listenership, with the inevitable decline in revenue which could force its closure,” said Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha.
“This has serious negative implications for minority groups, especially for South Africans of Indian descent, and would ultimately mark the death knell for Lotus FM as a viable, sustainable commercial radio station within the SABC stable,” he said.
“Despite representations to explain the specificity of Lotus FM, there has been no relaxation of the rule,” he added.
The South African Tamil Federation has also voiced its objection to the quota ruling.
Advertisers have been withdrawing huge amounts of advertising as the station listenership falls, citing an effective reach to their target markets.
Public meetings are expected to take place across south Africa in the next few weeks to mobilise protest action against the SABC.