Friday, April 8, 2011

The new SAFM - on the mend

Great! I have been listening much to SAFM these days. And indeed, the station has improved. They found the right people to conduct interviews and grill the high and mighty in a sensible way.

However, they still have to improve their cultural programs. Most presenters there just do not match up with what they are talking about. Some have been there for too long; others failed to grow, and their book discussions are so limited as the fashionable poets that are more useful as corporate imbongis. If you want to give credit to artists, you need to have presenters who have the gravitas to talk about art in an illuminating way. However, they seem to be stuck between coffee-table-book-level idle talk or glorifying without qualification a new nation or emerging continent and its genius. Boring.

But then, the ANC does not appear to have any great ideas about arts and culture. Either it serves as propaganda or economic development. A hang-over from ill-digested Marxist theory according to which the arts is only superstructure in the service of capital?

There is already enough idle chit-chat on the airwaves and it would be nice if we had a station that aims to show our lives, with all its facets, joys and contradictions,and with new angles and does not just indulge in banalities.

Impressive with the new SAFM is how they give much airtime to fighting corruption. I hope though that this will continue, before a displeased master intervenes.

The worrisome aspect to this turn around however is the realisation how our public institutions are subjects to the whims of short sighted politicians and their struggles for power. Or, why had things to deteriorate to such a degree that the station had come back from the brink of meaninglessness? On the one hand, it is still not clear if the SABC is now governed properly. Also, what is the outcome of the judicial persecution of those managers who looted the SABC shamelessly? To let them off the hook, is that the price we pay for having a better station now and less overbearing political influence?

Some things you hear on the station is really astonishing. At some point in time, the station's motto was "for the well informed". One critique said that this smacked of racism and showed a pandering to white audiences. Now, for quite a while, the motto is "South Africa's information leader". Is that really an improvement? Is the focus on leadership less racially biased? I would like to know how the station's listenership has changed or not.

Maybe the word 'leader' shows the ambition to be more socially relevant, in tune with a developing state that marshalls all resources for development. But that should not allow for abusing language as they do. While the call for collecting money to help flood victims is sensible, the advert is just stomach turning. "Charity is the noblest of our human sentiments because it cuts across differences", or so goes the jingle. The glib reference to multiracial nation-building is at least as bad as beer commercials showing off black and white labourers and their muscles, or the gruesome steretoypes about happy black families, and the 'nice' white couple that is not afraid to visit 'the locals'....

Charity is a human sentiment that just does that...make us human. But those on the receiving end of charity would be better served by human institutions that reduce the need for charity. A functioning state, officials who do their job and organise emergency relief if needed, an economic system that serves all people equally, now that sounds to me much better than charity.

No comments: