Competition is the food of life!

New radio stations licences: News story of the month

HOT on the heels of efforts by ZBC to engage content producers to submit concepts for possible development into television shows and programmes, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe last week announced five companies that obtained eight licences for the regional radio stations.

The companies that got the licences are AB Communications (which owns ZFM), Fairtalk Communications, Ray of Hope, Zimpapers and Kingstons. I will say that they had them coming. It’s the nature of the game: The winner takes all.

Let them fight

Depending on how one looks at things, it is either time to exploit the opportunities or time to gripe. Since I write for and about the arts and culture I will state here and now that perhaps the winds of change are blowing across our sector’s landscape.

In a free market, consumers benefit from having many choices. Competition engenders improvement in terms of quality of service or product. In short, customers benefit from companies trying to outdo one another for market share.

One only has to consider what has been happening in the local fast food sector when a Harare-based chain came to town. All of a sudden the “old” monopolistic food chain has suddenly been able to increase the size and number of its chicken pieces in a bid to stop customers from switching allegiances.

It’s hilarious and sad at the same time to realise that they could have been doing the “right” thing all along. In these difficult days customers can only enjoy this fight. It may be attritional and possibly detrimental to businesses, but we really do not care. We want to eat.

Show me the money
All that we require is that the radio stations have a proper fight over listeners. The likes of Star FM suddenly decided to come and broadcast from town last week. What have they been waiting for all along?

Personally I think that companies must realise that complacency is their undoing. We are a people who are experiencing trying times and can do without the smug and diva tendencies from monopolies which are overfed from our hard earned dollar.

Shingisayi Suluma

Shingisayi Suluma

Whoever owns whatever radio station must pay up on songwriters’ royalties for use of their material; the music they will use in their programmes! Otherwise it will all be a pointless exercise from where the artists stand. Cheap fame is definitely not on the menu.

Nightmare in Mosi oa Tunya
Yes, my abiding interest is in the cultural sector. That is the prism through which I glean society. So it is that I watched the artists that staged performances at the president’s birthday gala in Victoria Falls via television last week.

I saw Sandra Ndebele and her crew work up the crowd, Iyasa present a well polished act and Shingisayi Suluma sing the gospel. I was stunned by what I heard then.

It was the same sentiment that I had after listening to gospel singer Charles Charamba’s latest album last year when he gave it to me for a review (which up till now have held back on). It was the very stuff of nightmares. I told him as much.

Bravely, her worst performance
Now at the gala Shingisayi came on stage and went through her songs. I felt badly for her because the keyboard instrument was way above all other instruments to the point of sounding like the only member of the band. One could not hear the drum set.

As one in the know about such things, I could tell that the drums had not been miked properly if at all. Shingisayi battled through her set and could hardly hear herself.

She sang off key numerous times. It was that bad. She sounded like an amateur playing wannabe and that was grating for me particularly. Shingisayi is someone I know to be a consummate songwriter and artist.

She had flown in from the UK as I am reliably informed, at the president’s request. She is also reportedly one of his favourite singers.

The upside is that she writes beautiful melodies along with lyrics. Her catalogue of hits includes Nanhasi, Mirira Mangwanani and Gogodza.

She has numerous hit songs and is a well loved musician having steered clear of scandal in her musical career. But the performance at the gala must count for her worst public performance because of the poor sound quality.

Something in the culture

The sound engineers at the gala event disgraced the country by delivering a cacophony, a raucous unforgivable noise on a national and possibly international stage. When you are a sound engineer on site, do you imagine that the folk at home can hear what you as the so-called sound engineer are hearing?

But all it would have taken was a dress rehearsal and maybe a phone call home to check on the live television sound. I am worried that there does seem to be a sense in which some of our people appear not to have personal professional pride. How else can we explain the putting out of rubbish performances at national events?

The lighting is bad or the sound is bad on many of our stages with befuddling regularity. Commitment to the work contract is what I mean!

Caveat emptor
The world has become more converged to the point that if one is recorded performing poorly, it will not matter that in Zimbabwe we do not have proper sound engineers to manage live sound as the world watches.

If proper live sound engineers are there, why are they not hired? Imagine with me the brand shattering potential of such a show?

Someone may well have recorded that show and uploaded it on You Tube and social media for the entire world to see. Is this how we build brand Zimbabwe? Is ours a culture that celebrates mediocrity and give it access to our high platforms?

Notwithstanding, in law we understand the phrase caveat emptor to imply the principle that a buyer must be ware or at least make themselves aware of possible defects in a purchase.

In other words, you have the responsibility to check before paying for a commodity whether it has defects. I recommend that our artists do the same and not trade their hard earned reputations for a few dollars. To see and hear Shingisayi screeching her way through the noise at the recent gala event was such a travesty.

Parting shot
Did anyone see the Radio Metro awards? Small wonder that our youth want to rush across the Mzansi border in search of the elusive. The show was hosted by SABC owned Radio Metro! So it is actually possible for a government-owned entity to produce quality.


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