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The decline and stagnation of talk radio 702?

UPDATE – We no longer listen to 702, I’m allergic to Eusebius and can’t risk hearing his voice if I forget to change stations.  My life is happier with more music

This is a guest post written by my husband.  I agree with most of the points which he makes although I would be a bit kinder to Jenny of 702 as I quite enjoy her show, particularly the book show.  I really miss the evening shows on 702 and no longer bother with them, even ‘a word on cars’ was entertaining although my interest in cars is minimal.  ‘The week that wasn’t is the best!’  Cliff’s thoughts on the subject are below.

Several weeks ago I read an opinion piece on politicsweb by David Bullard on whether talk radio had outlived its usefulness.  While I am ambivalent towards Mr Bullard (he’s always arrogant, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes has very intelligent comments to make, other times he behaves a bit like an immature student), it is something I’d been feeling for a long while already, at least in terms of the Talk Radio 702 format.  I tire of endless repeats of the same news items, half of which really are not really news at all (I certainly do not believe that endless reports on Mandela Day for example to be at all news-worthy), and I can never understand why often an item discussed with an interviewee five minutes before the news slot becomes a lead news story.  David Bullard made the comment “Why do I want to know what Bert in Benoni thinks about the proposed e-tolls”, and although I feel that Bert may sometimes have an intelligent, educated thought or argument around a particular topic, more often than not, he (or she) does not.  (By the same token though, why do I care what John Robbie thinks about a particular topic and what makes his opinion noteworthy?!).  I generally cringe in embarrassment, horror or both when people phone in either on “the open-line”, or to give their two-cents worth when a particular topic is being discussed.  Or to ask an inane question, which is either off-topic or the answer to which is obvious.  When these listeners call in I often switch channels, as I do more and more frequently at other times too.  The problem of course being is that we do not have the luxury of many options – SAFM does not have much to offer (Nancy Richards comes across as sophisticated and intelligent, but her show has little interest for me), RSG is better, or at least their morning talk show is, but to enjoy it you need to understand Afrikaans.  And that is about it, on the music front other than classic FM, which is OK for a while, there is little else either – we’ve always lacked a decent rock music radio station in this country.  

The Midday Report under Chris Gibbons had both substance and the feel of being real journalism, but since Stephen Grootes took over the reins, the quality seems to have declined somewhat – the news items are less substantial and less cutting, and as with 702’s news reports in general, often seem less newsworthy than when Chris Gibbons was presenting.  Additionally the quality of some of the experts that Stephen Grootes has interviewed lately leaves a lot to be desired – can he not attract real experts, or is he trying to duplicate the demographics of the country and select experts based on their backgrounds rather than their real expertise?  Don’t get me wrong, Stephen Grootes seems like a nice guy, but perhaps a “nice guy” is the wrong man for the job (although I am sure Chris Gibbons is “nice” too).  

We were informed that David O’Sullivan’s move to the early breakfast show was done at his request to accommodate family responsibilities, but to me being moved from a prime time-slot  to before sparrow’s fart amounts to a demotion for David O’Sullivan.  Switching to a new presenter, Xolani Gwala, has done nothing to improve the quality of the show – a two-hour wrap-up of the day’s top stories with an always open line does not make for interesting or intelligent radio.  On top of which the two hours is made up mostly of repeated news broadcasts (including the sports and economic news) and advertisements, interspersed (at least whenever I’ve been listening) with Mr Gwala slightly expanding on a news story (either just after it’s been broadcast or just before it’s going to be broadcast again), without any in-depth analysis.  Moreover, the narrow selection of news stories that 702’s news team deems to be important, can only be rehashed so many times (or preferably not at all).  Again Xolani (and David) are not the problem, it is the format which is the problem.

Jenny Crwys-Williams sounds intelligent when you first hear her speak, although her bizarre pronunciations of certain words leaves one wondering, yet she often gets some of the best interviews on 702.  The book feature and ad feature are worthwhile, and I enjoy some parts of her Friday afternoon show, but in general cannot listen to her show for any length of time, there’s just too much of an empty-headedness about things and one gets the feeling that JCW would be far more comfortable discussing her shoe collection.  Like the afternoon drive, John Robbie’s Breakfast Show is again made up of repeated news stories and his inflated opinion which lately seems to evolve over time (I often criticise his initial comments on certain topics, but have found lately that his subsequent comments on the same topics start to match my own thoughts, making me worry about my own credibility).  As before, I have to wonder what makes Bert’s opinion any worse than John Robbie’s?!

Of all the presenters on 702 that I ever get to listen, Redi Tlhabi has the most to offer, that is if one ignores her dreadful open line.  And Aki’s technobyte.  Technology is a lot more than the latest cell phone or tablet device, but perhaps for the majority of 702’s listeners, such devices are the only technology they can relate to.  Additionally I always wonder what makes Aki  Anastasiou qualified to report on “technology” – the fact that he owned a ZX Spectrum in his youth?  That makes virtually everyone I know qualified…  And that’s it, by the time I get home after work, if the radio is on (and music is not playing), I’d rather be listening to a business show on Classic FM than on 702, and I am certainly never going to listen to an hour or two of sports news!

702 is still useful if there is something interesting happening in the world (provided it’s sufficiently interesting to the EWN team of course) or in South Africa, but for me, talk radio in general has run it’s course.  Interesting inserts on a wide range of topics, more variety, more real experts and less repetition, less inflated opinion, and fewer calls from Bert in Benoni might change things, but this seemingly will never happen.

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