Radio has developed while listeners’ trust is waning

…as old hands  lament over- reliance on social media sourcing

By John Masuku

VISUALLY  impaired since birth, well-known disability activist Masimba Kuchera prides himself as having learnt excellent conversational  Ndebele and sharpened his English and Shona-speaking skills by spending most of his  boyhood years in the early 1980s glued to the radio set, enjoying different programmes.

“I would listen to  English and Shona news first  then carefully listen to the correspondent  Ndebele bulletins  to muster the translations of titles, items, activities and different news contexts. I also learnt a lot from schools broadcasts on Radio Four (now ZBC National FM) and rich expressions used in English soccer commentaries by the likes of Evans Mambara and Charles Mabika on Radio One(Classic 263),”  said  Kuchera.

Masimba Kuchera

With Radio and Trust being the 2022 International World Radio Day theme many yesteryear  broadcasters decried diminishing trust in the audio medium due to lack of  depth by some young broadcasters  in delivering well-researched content in polished local  languages which can also benefit  new learners.

Due to the delayed liberalisation of airwaves in Zimbabwe during colonial and post-independence eras, state-controlled stations under  RBC and ZBC-dominated public opinion in the country to the extent that  radio was the most trusted source for explaining  puzzling issues and confirming  proper usage of terminologies  and expressions

“Our parents would not miss news especially the 7pm bulletin. Where there were  no sets  in the homes they would go to the shops a distance away. Those days radios were not switched on all day in order to save on batteries lest people missed out on important information still  to come. Besides news people enjoyed music programmes, dramas, quizzes and book reading. Languages were not mixed up  and undermined as they are today,” explained Maguire Godzongere, a gifted multi-lingual who after ZBC, worked  at the Parliament of Zimbabwe as an interpreter until his retirement recently.

When the drive to liberate the country and challenge the colonialists’  repressive narratives escalated  in the 1960s/1970s people sought to also rely on alternative political news from  Short

John Masuku & Musi Khumalo

Wave radio stations set up by the liberation movements — Zapu led by the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo and Zanu first, under  late Reveverend Ndabaning Sithole later succeeded by the late former President Robert Mugabe. Every evening people secretly  accessed  the  Zapu stations  beaming from  Moscow,  Russia and Lusaka. Zanu on the other hand also mobilised  thousands of citizens to join the war  from their Voice of Zimbabwe in Maputo at times being granted airspace in Dar es Salaam Tanzania and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since people’s trust in the liberation movements  grew they flocked to neighbouring countries  join the war to free themselves.

John Masuku & ex BBC Chairman Marmaduke Hussey London.

Former assistant head of Radio Two Amon Nyamambi, who  before Independence led Bulawayo’s then popular Radio Mthwakazi, an early well-received  forerunner to community broadcasting in the country believes that as times change people’s perspectives also change  throughout generations .

“You will recall that prior to the 1950s radio was not known to us  as it was a white man’s preserve and prerogative we viewed as some magic apparatus. But as more  people began to afford it they  also increased their belief in  news and information that it delivered,” said Nyamambi, a language enthusiast, who encourages fellow broadcasters to respect all national languages and speak them properly in news and programmes.

I concur with ‘Maqhulayibambe, the former Zinhle Indaba Ezinhle (Poetry Corner) anchor as I always get annoyed with advertisers and radio stations, who disrespectfully use unsuitable voices that destroy other communities’ languages without getting  fluent speakers to advertise  important corporate and government  products and services. Unfortunately, the media is no longer scouting for very efficient  multi-lingualists as before.

Nonceba Mnkandla, from Montrose Studios Bulawayo  and Joseph Panganayi Mukaronda at Mbare Studios in Harare  once took  Kwaziso/Ukubingelelana listenership  on Radio Two  to higher  levels proffers that  things that diminish people’s  trust in radio should be investigated and corrected.

“Yesteryear generations  entirely relied on radio before the advent of many new media  platforms  which now make some broadcasters lazy to frequently go to the people to closely understand  and appreciate their ways of life. While access has drastically  improved trust still remains questionable  due to overdependence on the internet without much fact checking. As for viability stations will pick up when the economy improves,” assets Mnkandla, who currently hosts a breakfast show on the privately owned Skyz Metro FM in Bulawayo.

Killian Butu, another retired broadcaster, believes that social media should complement radio journalism rather than being the sole provider of content and and major  influencer.

“Today’s radio seems to promote love affairs and sexism big time above encouraging  good cultural values. Well-managed radio can be viable although our current economic environment may fail to sustain envisaged profitability,” observes Butu .

UK-based John Matinde, former head of Radio Three (ZBC Power FM) and an ex-staffer at the now shut SWRadio Africa in London in reflecting on the past also applauds the growth of radio in  Zimbabwe in  recent years.

“Entertainment  such as The Surf Show Pick A box, the Mukadota Family and Sakhelene Zinini  were big  value before Uhuru. Education, drama, comedy, poetry, culture and traditional music solidified the  knowledge base with many groups always  keen to actively participate in radio programmes. I personally  enjoy presenting music shows but  also strongly  advocate for a radio environment  that targets different listeners’ tastes,”  said Matinde, a former rock DJ, who also presented Sounds on Saturday on television.

As  Zimbabwe celebrates World Radio Day particularly  the licensing of the first community radio stations, broadcasters should now strive to increase diversity, inclusivity and more believability in news bulletins, programmes and viewpoints in order to create broadly trusted choices for radio listeners.

The party goes on in Chiredzi the centre of this year’s celebrations.

  • The writer John Masuku is a veteran radio and television personality-cum-media trainer/consultant. Contact him on Twitter @john-masuku and Email:
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