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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

AXING OF SAFM PERSONNEL (article first published : 2004-09-5)

In a press release titled SAfm Bloodletting - Death Knell of Specialist Programmes, Dianne Kohler-Barnard MP, DA Spokesperson on Arts and Culture responds to the recent axing of Safm personnel.

“There has been a mass axing of presenters on English language public broadcaster station, SAfm. The last day of September will see the last of the specialist programmes disappear, along with the two most listened-to programmes after AM Live - Saturday Light and SAfm Weekend.

This will be the death-knell of specialist programmes in this country. The Democratic Alliance rejects SABC spokesperson Paul Setsetse's supposed justification for this action that it relates to the so-called licence condition about mandates. We challenge him to provide the paperwork to back this up.

The station is haemorrhaging listeners - but that is during the endless broadcasting phone-ins during the week.

Meanwhile, artists around the country are outraged at the scrapping of Art of the Matter - the country's premier arts programme presented by award-winning actress Fiona Ramsay and produced by Alan Swerdlow – a man so highly thought of in the South African arts world that he has just been elevated to the board of the Market Theatre. The station's only other arts programme, Art on the Edge by Michelle Constant this week nominated as a finalist for Arts Journalist of the Year, is also going.

Other announcers fired are Saturday Light presenter Anne Williams; Tony Lankester, presenter of SAfm Weekend - along with correspondents such as Lyndall Popper, Angus Begg and "Thelma", to name just three; specialist motoring reporter, Deon Schoeman, editor of Top Car magazine; sports presenter John Gerike; Quiet Storm on Sundays presenter Rafe Lavine; as well as specialist programmes such as the Book Programme, Word of Mouth and the documentaries - Jack Mullen of Futurewatch, John Gerike's Computer Gig and Richard Haslop also fall under the axe.

This is seen as the final blood-letting of experienced white presenters. Setsetse’s statement in Friday's Mail and Guardian that the English language public service broadcaster must be more representative does not withstand scrutiny. The SABC has one public broadcaster station for each of South Africa's 11 official languages. SAfm is supposed to serve the English-speaking community, just as Ukhozi provides an isiZulu service and RSG serves an Afrikaans-speaking Audience. If all eleven stations are taken into account, as they should be, there is absolutely no doubt that SABC Radio represents the diversity of language and culture in South Africa. There is no need to socially engineer one station. Why does it seem that the SABC is taking instructions from the ANC on a daily basis now?" - Dianne Kohler-Barnard

Dianne Kohler-Barnard was, for many years, the SAfm presenter in Durban and was well-known for her popular "Out to Lunch" programme.




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