Radio broadcasters support local content

03 January 2001

Research commissioned by the NAB shows that radio broadcasters work hard to meet the existing local content quota of 20 percent, and are making a significant financial contribution to the music industry. 

However, more than 60 percent of broadcasters argue that there is insufficient South African music in their format to support a local content quota of 40 percent and 79 percent believe that local content levels should be decided according to each station`s format, language and licence category.

The present local content guidelines were implemented in November 1997, when radio stations that played more than 15 percent music on air were required to make at least 20 percent of that South African.

There were no exceptions to this rule and interviews of musicians or promotions of local music were not counted as part of the station`s local content.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) will be holding hearings in April or May to discuss an increase of these local content levels with industry.

The NAB`s recommendations to ICASA (outlined below) are based on a comprehensive survey of our members, and other research, commissioned from KPMG`s Media and Entertainment division.

The radio broadcast sector spends a considerable amount of time ensuring compliance with the quotas by filling out and checking local content log sheets - a total of about 546 hours a week industrywide.

This commitment is also demonstrated by an October 2000 Icasa Monitoring Report, which found that 27 public and commercial radio stations (or 85 percent) met or exceeded the 20 percent quota.

With a possible increase in the quota imminent, 77 percent of radio station`s surveyed say there is not enough South African music in their formats being produced by record companies to meet a 50 percent quota.

And 26 of the 33 broadcasters surveyed estimated that the local music industry would need to increase production substantially so that stations can meet this quota.

A station`s attitude to whether there is enough local content for broadcast is largely determined by what its format is. In an effort to find out what the levels of domestic output were in the various genres, KPMG asked stations to use the music samples they receive from record companies to estimate what proportion of these were local.

Radio stations reported that they received fewer local samples than international in the adult contemporary, pop and rock categories, the backbone of many commercial stations` format, whereas in South African genres such as masakandi and kwaito, there is an overwhelming supply of local samples. Some broadcasters estimated that recording companies would have to increase their output by 123 percent in the undersupplied genres to enable stations to achieve a 50 percent quota.

The KPMG research also found that radio broadcasters contribute to the development of a local music industry in ways that are not required by the quota system - through promotions and on-air interviews.

Stations surveyed had, in the past year, held on average 239 interviews a month and 215 competitions a month to promote local music. Stations also sponsor concerts and performances. Radio`s financial support for
the music industry amounted to R20m last year.

However, the research found no proof for a direct correlation between quotas and the growth of the music industry. KPMG surveyed four other countries with local content regulations, and found that only one, Australia, had experienced significant growth in sales of local music, and it was not clear whether this was the result of quotas or other industry initiatives. The survey also found that the percentage of domestic sales in South Africa were on a par with Australia, Canada and Ireland, pointing to the relative health of our music industry.

Given the results of the research, the NAB is making a number of recommendations to ICASA

* Quotas should be flexible and take into account the format of the

* Quotas should include in-kind contributions, such as promotions, interviews and competitions

* ICASA should consider introducing a weighting or points system in the regulations

* Broader initiatives to stimulate growth in the music industry should be considered

* ICASA should set up a forum for the broadcasting and recording industries so that they can work together towards meeting local content requirements

* Stations should be allowed to include African music in the local content definition.

The NAB will argue that a fixed quota of around 50% were to be introduced, many broadcasters would be forced to play music that is outside of their format, or play too many repeats of South African music. This could lead to listeners switching off, and radio would suffer a loss of advertising revenue as advertisers would seek other media to reach audiences. Damage to the broadcasting industry will eventually undermine the aims of local content regulations, which is to develop a strong music industry.

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