Southside FM staff “not being paid our worth”

A DOCUMENT, purportedly compiled by the on-air personalities at community radio station Southside FM, highlighting their concerns over matters including allegedly being “exploited” and “not being paid our worth” was “leaked” on social media last week. Picture: Facebook

A DOCUMENT, purportedly compiled by the on-air personalities at community radio station Southside FM, highlighting their concerns over matters including allegedly being “exploited” and “not being paid our worth” was “leaked” on social media last week. Picture: Facebook

Published Apr 29, 2024


A DOCUMENT, purportedly compiled by the on-air personalities at community radio station Southside FM, highlighting their concerns over matters including allegedly being “exploited” and “not being paid our worth” was “leaked” on social media last week.

In the document, the presenters requested a response from the station’s board. If not, they threatened to send the document to Karthi Moothsamy, head of the Tamil Business Warriors (TBW) and the chairperson of the board at Southside FM.

It contained the “collective submissions by the current line-up of Southside FM” on-air personalities, and highlighted their concerns, including:

1. Not having a dedicated team or individual to sell advertising.

2. Requesting clarity on stipends and commissions.

3. Requesting information on the station’s music policy.

4. Presenters express that they feel exploited as they have not been paid their worth. They said there was talk of the stipend being done away with, and presenters only being offered a commission on adverts and sponsorships brought in as a means to earn.

5. New presenters were also promised stipends but have not received any.

6. The station does not have a newsreader. Presenters are forced to read the news, giving the station a “low and unprofessional image”.

This week, Raj Govender, the station’s CEO and the CEO of TBW, responded to the allegations and concerns, following questions from the POST.

Q: How are the TBW involved with Southside FM?

A: Beyond ensuring compliance and regulatory adherence, TBW's support has been instrumental in shaping the station's strategic direction and operational efficiency.

In a strategic move to bring the station closer to the community it serves, TBW facilitated the relocation of Southside FM from central Durban to Chatsworth.

Moreover, the TBW's investment in the creation of a state-of-the-art studio has elevated the station's infrastructure, providing a conducive environment for quality broadcasting and professionalism. TBW members have also generously invested in the acquisition and outfitting of an outside broadcasting vehicle -facilitating on-location broadcasts and community engagement events.

We are also actively engaged in developing a sustainable business model for the radio station's long-term viability.

Q: Who did management consult with to put together the show structures and its requirements? And are these being changed with the growing needs of the station? Is presenter input taken into consideration?

A: Management consistently engages with both the board and presenters to craft show structures that meet the evolving demands of our station and audience. Presenter input is highly valued and integral to our decision-making process.

It's important to note that changes to show structures are driven by compliance requirements, listener feedback, and industry best practices observed in other community radio stations. Proposed changes are discussed with presenters through an ongoing consultative process, ensuring their perspectives are heard and considered.

Moving forward, presenter inputs will continue to inform our decisions, while prioritising the needs and preferences of our listeners remains our top priority.

Q: Who produces the on-air programmes? According to the grievances, the presenters have to produce their own content. They say they are not remunerated accordingly for their time. The say that content production requires skill.

A: Presenters are tasked with creating their own on-air content, a standard practice within community radio. While we acknowledge the skills and time required for content production, we strive to offer fair compensation within our operational constraints.

It's important to note that Southside FM operates as a non-profit organisation with limited financial resources. Should additional funds become available, we would explore the possibility of appointing dedicated producers for shows.

Q: What are the station’s plans regarding staffing?

A: We are exploring opportunities to integrate interns into our team to support technical functions and content creation. This initiative aligns with our commitment to empowerment, offering valuable hands-on experience to local youth.

It's worth noting that while presenters receive stipends covering travel expenses, all staff have the opportunity to augment their income through commissions generated from advertising and sponsorships, enhancing their financial prospects beyond stipend remuneration.

Management is currently looking at various options to generate more revenue to sustain the station, including appointing a marketing and sales specialist to generate revenue for the station.

Regarding our newsreader position, we recently bid farewell to our newsreader, Leah Ganasen, who is pursuing new vocational opportunities. Management is actively exploring alternative solutions, including the possibility of appointing journalism interns to fill the role.

Q: What is the station’s listenership?

A: Estimating radio listenership is a complex process, and there isn't a single, one-size-fits-all method. The radio station has both an online presence and a frequency. Based on our stats from November to date, we have an online presence of over 78 000 actual connections to our station.

This is utilising the various platforms like TUNEIN, Radio Garden and Southside FM website. Further to that, we have introduced listeners to connect live on Facebook and YouTube enhancing our reach globally, which is not included into this total.

Using a variable, calculation and interpretation formula, our ratio is that for every one listener on our stream that equates to between 2 to 6 listeners on average per device listening to the station. We were being conservative and worked on a number of between 3 to 4.

This equates to (78000 x 4= 312000) listeners. Taking that into account we estimate the average will be higher on the FM frequency using the same ratio. The exact number is difficult to determine as using a third party company to validate or conduct the analysis bears a financial strain on the station as we are a non-profit.

Q: Are there problems with the quality of the station’s FM frequency - that are allegedly turning people away from the station? The presenters say this needs to be addressed.

A: We acknowledge challenges with our allocated frequency, and we are actively engaged in discussions with the relevant authorities to explore potential solutions. In the meantime, we have supplemented our reach through live streaming, which has garnered positive feedback from listeners worldwide.

Q: Is there a music policy for the station?

A: Southside FM's music policy aligns with its vision to cater to the South Indian community, particularly the Tamil and Telugu communities. Our current policy entails airing two Tamil, two Telugu, and one English music tracks.

Additionally, we aim to promote local music; however, limited availability of broadcast-quality local music presents a challenge. We encourage local musicians to share their music with us for promotion on the station.

Govender said that at Southside FM their listeners were at the heart of everything they did.

“We are unwavering in our dedication to meeting their needs and expectations. While we acknowledge the concerns raised in the leaked document, we want to assure our audience that their voices are heard and their feedback is invaluable to us.

“As an emerging community radio station, we are constantly striving to innovate and adapt to better serve our community. We refuse to be deterred by detractors, and instead, we focus our energy on addressing concerns and enhancing our station's offerings.

“In the face of challenges, we remain resolute in our mission to provide a platform that celebrates the diversity of voices within our community and fosters meaningful connections. With the continued support of our listeners and stakeholders, we are confident that Southside FM will continue to grow and thrive as a beacon of community engagement and empowerment.”

Moothsamy said: "It has only been three months since we got final control of the station. We had to first deal with licence compliance issues and the move of the station. The next phase is the business model, revenue generation and staff inputs, in which a meeting is being arranged between the staff and the board as per their requests."