I recently made contact with a new (to me anyway) radio station and I thought that it has an interesting story and something of a unique (at least in the South African context) proposition and that it would make for an interesting blog post for you all.
GaySA Radio is an internet (streaming) based radio station that broadcasts LGBT themed content and of course music. As a station, GaySA Radio champions many causes that are relevant and important to the LGBT community, so they are very definitely an ‘activist’ and progressive institution, whilst still keeping programming fun and light.
The radio station was started by Livio del Gallo in October 2015, when it was called GaySA FM. It broadcast a dance music stream twenty-four hours a day which was interrupted once a week by a live DJ with an actual radio show. Clearly the focus was on keeping costs low, a good strategy for any new business to follow.
In January 2016 father and son team Hendrik and Ethan Baird joined the station as Station and Programming Managers, respectively. This heralded a new tack for the station and many changes ensued. The name of the station was changed from GaySA FM to GaySA Radio and premises were moved to a better and more stable environment. Livio remains the owner and has remained on as chairman and chief financial officer. Ethan brought his experience working at TUKS FM to the station whilst Hendrik’s background in drama and events management has given the station additional possible revenue streams.
In a spark of brilliance, the station recruited volunteers who bought into the station’s vision and mission of providing a safe space for members of the LGBT community to discuss relevant issues, building relationships, reaching out to all sectors of the South African community and promoting the LGBT community in the broader South African society and these volunteers now form the core of the stations programming talent.
In the course of 2016 the station flexed its activist muscles and was instrumental in ensuring that the anti-gay American pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church was unable to enter South Africa to spread his message of hate and intolerance. This showed the important role media institutions play in educating society, spreading knowledge and keeping our community safe and coherent.
The station finally felt ready to launch as a fully-fledged and functioning station and did so at the October 2016 Pretoria Pride.
Unfortunately, economic headwinds and a difficult trading environment have made it hard for the station to meet its goals and objectives. The lack of advertising support from the mainstream advertisers has meant that the station has created a not-for-profit company. This has allowed them to access some donor funding that has assisted the station to continue to function despite the lean advertising pickings. Unfortunately, the difficult economic times we find ourselves in have been exacerbated by some advertisers not wanting to support the station because of its very strong association with the LGBT community and its consequent LGBT heavy content offering. Interestingly this prejudice has come from both ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ oriented companies. Companies owned by straight people are often unwilling to associate themselves with a gay station, whilst some gay people fear the repercussions for them and their brands should they be outed. This is evidence of a very distressing ‘mainstreamism’ that afflicts the South African business community. Businesses only want to be associated with and support media that is mainstream and boring. It should be noted that freedom of speech only exists when a media organisation has the ability to sustain itself financially. If people value the idea of an LGBT radio station they need to recognise the need to support it financially so that it can continue to deliver its much-needed content and support to the LGBT community. Failure to support media organisations financially will result in them closing. Sadly, you often only realise the extent of a media organisation’s involvement and impact on society after they have gone. It is usually best to not let that happen, especially for a community like the LGBT community. Our hard-won rights are always under threat.
The station is also active on a number of different platforms such as a radio blog, YouTube, iTunes, Mixcloud, podcasts and social media. This allows content to live beyond the ephemeral moment of the now and thus allow listeners to access audio content when it is convenient for them to do so, not when the station broadcasts it.
These are clearly exciting times for GaySA Radio. I for one think that the more LGBT content we have in South Africa the better. I also think that the station deserves our support, if for no other reason, than for the brave stand they took against Steven Anderson. I hope that you will all download their app on your phones, listen to them and maybe become a convert.
The station finds itself in need of volunteers who would be willing to assist with programming and other duties and of course, given the lack of advertising they need additional revenue as well. The station therefore welcomes all forms of support. They are particularly ‘light’ on transgender presenters, guests and related content because so many South African transgender people are deeply closeted. A very serious indictment of our society and its inherent transphobia. Should you wish to volunteer your time (especially all you transgender people out there) please contact Ethan on firstname.lastname@example.org. Should you be able to offer financial support you can of course always donate some money to the not-for-profit as this will help them cover their overheads, or you can place an advert on the station and hopefully get some marketing bang for your buck! Should you wish to do so please contact Hendrik on email@example.com.
All photographs have been supplied by GaySA Radio. No copyright infringement has been intended. Daniella’s Rambling does not own any of the pictures in this article.