Bilingual broadcasting that works!

This article, aimed at the advertising trade and media industry, was written on behalf of Jacaranda FM and published on Bizcommunity in 2009.

bilingual kidFamily life, the outdoors and an innate ability to enjoy themselves coupled with undying loyalty to South Africa and commitment towards making this country work.

Jacaranda 94.2 Music Manager Gustav Greyling says these are just some of the heartfelt values uncovered by in-depth listener research that aptly illustrate the ‘pleasure and the pain’ associated with capturing the hearts and minds of this highly discerning market…

Jacaranda 94.2 has come a long way since the highly-regulated ‘days of old’ when it was a government-owned station. Today, it’s South Africa’s largest independent regional radio station and continues to strike a massive chord with its sizeable 625 000 (25%) Afrikaans listener base.

A key reason for this is the station’s massive investment in ongoing listener research that has given it a unique vantage point when it comes to keeping up with the hopes and dreams of this vital segment of its target market.

One of our most interesting and exciting findings is that at some point during the last couple of years, there was a definitive shift towards thinking ‘Afrikaans is cool’. But it wasn’t always like that. In 1994, Afrikaans was seen as very unfashionable, old and highly-regulated by the apartheid government.

This was hugely damaging to Afrikaans language and culture and there was considerable resistance by the alternative Afrikaans music movement. For example, alternative artists like Koos Kombuis or Johannes Kerkorrel would ridicule the ‘safe’, establishment type celebrities like Rina Hugo and Bles Bridges – almost like an Afrikaner in-fight.

But somehow, 15 years later – and this is the part that is hard to understand – we’re at a point where those old alternatives and the iconic ‘establishment celebrities’ come together at massive annual events – such as Skouspel, the KKNK or InniBos – and happily share a stage and sing one another’s songs.

It’s almost as if the Afrikaans speaking market has decided to put its differences aside for the greater good. No doubt this was preceded by a perceived loss of relevance in South African society, but it was also influenced by the fact that Afrikaans culture is no longer regulated by the government. In fact, in the 15 years since democracy, the Afrikaans market has been set free and is now able to flourish in an open market society.

This has led to an Afrikaans cultural boom, with the advent of art and music festivals across the country; massive support for Afrikaans music at live events, extremely healthy CD sales; Afrikaans-only TV channels; official recognition at the South African Music Awards and last, but not least, Karen Zoid singing at the presidential inauguration.

The Afrikaans creative community worked very hard to achieve this level of success and for them, the ‘mainstream breakthrough’ that is happening now, is the ultimate ‘cherry on the top’. It’s only recently that mainstream media has begun to pick up on this shift in audience preferences. Fortunately a station like ourselves a great head start.

But how exactly does it benefit the bottom-line to be a bilingual radio station in South Africa in 2009? Well for one, it opens the door for historically separate communities to get together around a shared value system, and thereby contribute towards nation-building, while maintaining a strong Afrikaans heritage brand position.

In light of this, Jacaranda 94.2 plays all the favourite Afrikaans pop hits and supports the local artists at events like the annual InniBos Lowveld National Arts Festival in Nelspruit and the Deuriemikke Karnaval in Pretoria.

Another key focus area for the station’s Afrikaans content quota, relates to our news bulletins, with 50% read in Afrikaans. These news bulletins are based on stories that affect its audience – which is largely Afrikaans – as directly as possible. Our approach to news is giving listeners something of extra value so we offer listeners stories with a localised, listener-centric angle.