By Ogova Ondego
Published May 23, 2007
South African lyricist and vocalist Thandiswa Mazwai, Nigerian rapper 2Face Idibia and Kenyan Tusker Project Fame winner Valerie Kimani, are set to entertain guests in Nairobi on May 26, 2007 at an event that is said to celebrate the place and role of radio in Africa. OGOVA ONDEGO writes.
It is heart-warming to see someone recognise talent in radio. There is no gainsaying the importance of radio in modern societies. To most people, radio is the medium of choice they listen to in the house, in the car or ‘matatu’ while travelling to and from work, while working in their offices and, I dare say, while they are lying in their beds with their eyes closed.
Unfortunately, many local FM stations have turned many into people who merely tolerate them in public places where they have no access to the dial. Some have permanently tuned to international news networks like BBC on their cell-phones, car stereos and home and office computers to steer clear of irritation from local FM stations. This is why many Africans were excited when BBC announced its Africa-wide Radio Awards to help improve radio journalism.
Besides talent and training, many feel, radio practitioners in Africa need to be socialised in the value for truth, fairness and objectivity. Many radio presenters in Africa often use objectionable language, employ what could be termed unethical standards and crown all this with ‘celebrity’ chest-thumping.
BBC may be assisting in turning African radio into a respectable medium. However one cannot explain why South Africa, Ghana and Kenya appear to dominate an event that is said to be ‘continental’. Did BBC deliberately ignore Kiswahili-speaking Tanzania, Lusophone Mozambique and Angola, Francophone Central and West Africa and Arabophone North Africa? If that be the case, then how ‘African’ can such an event be? We are posing these questions because BBC has not bothered to address them and has instead proceeded as if countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo-Kinshasa, Cameroon, Mali, and Senegal do not belong to Africa and should, therefore, be ignored.
After grappling with these questions without any response from BBC, ArtMatters.Info was lucky and honoured when Penny Dale, a producer in the BBC Africa Service, visited our office and clarified that the BBC Africa Radio Awards competition focused mainly on radio in English. This, she explained after a call to project manager, Ghanaian Vera Kwakofi, who is in Kenya for the May 26 event, was for logistical reasons: “BBC did this because this was the first year we are running the competition. English is the main language BBC broadcasts in in Africa. Administratively, it was easier to conduct the competition in one language. However as the competition grows we hope it will open up to other languages.”
Produced by Namibia-born Jan Malan and hosted by BBC producer and presenter Komla Dumor with trophies designed by Ghanaian Jeremiah Obuobi, BBC Africa Radio Awards will present trophies in seven categories.
The regional winners drawn from East, South and West Africa are the ones who will be trying to lay their claim to the continental honours in Nairobi.
Those competing for the News Journalist of the Year award are Asanda Magaqa (SABC News, South Africa); Esther Mbondo (KBC, Kenya); and Kofi Owusu (Joy FM, Ghana).
The winning journalist in this category, that BBC says “celebrates the skill and tenacity of a journalist who has explored or exposed a news story that has had local or national significance, with integrity and originality”, will receive a two-week, all-expenses paid trip to London, including time with the BBC’s African News & Current Affairs department.
James Mwangi Wokabi of Kenya’s Capital FM appears to be unchallenged in the Sports Journalist of the Year as he is the only contestant as the “judges did not select a southern or western regional winner for the Sports Journalist of the Year category because the material submitted did not meet competition standards,” BBC says of the category “for outstanding sports coverage that has provided listeners with a compelling, lively and entertaining experience either of an event or through a sports discussion show.”
Here, the winner will receive a two-week, all-expenses paid trip to London, including time with the BBC’s African News & Current Affairs department.
Those competing in the Local On-Air Campaign of the Year, a category “designed to honour stations that have carried out or supported a social campaign or initiative that has had a positive affect on the lives of the listening community that the station serves”, are John Robbie (Talk Radio 702, South Africa), Radio Waumini of Kenya, and Matilda Asante of Joy FM, Ghana. But here something does not seem to add up: Is BBC saying that South African Robbie and Ghanaian Asante are competing against Waumini Radio of Kenya? Why is the name of the Kenyan individual not mentioned in this contest in which the winning radio station will receive US$5,000 of equipment of their choice?
In The Talk/Interactive Show of the Year award that recognises “interactive programmes which significantly involve listeners in their format and discuss topics and issues of relevance and interest to their audience,” those battling out are Faith in Action (Feba Radio, Zimbabwe), Chit Chat (Capital FM, Kenya), and The Citi Breakfast Show (Citi FM, Ghana).
The winning radio station will receive US$2,500 of equipment of its choice, according to BBC.
The Young Broadcaster of the Year that “celebrates the ambition and potential of young broadcasters who have just started to make their way in radio,” will pit South African Qaanitaah Dramat of Radio 786 against Kenyan Rita Regina Maina of Hot 96 FM and Nigerian Ibukunoluwa Sanni of Ray Power in a contest in which “the winner will receive US$500 worth of equipment to help with their journalism career.”
Radio Pacis of Uganda and Citi FM of hana will try to beat each other to the ‘US$5,000 of equipment of their choice’ in the New Radio Station of the Year, a category “open to all radio stations which began broadcasting on or after September 1, 2004,” and “which has made an impact and built an audience since launching through relevant and creative programming, and by providing balanced, unbiased news reporting. The judges were looking for the station that has best filled a gap in the market through quality and pertinent output”
The Radio Station of the Year will be “awarded to the station that best serves its listeners’ needs through the breadth and variety of its programming, balanced, impartial news reporting and local interests.”
Entrants, who BBC says “had to demonstrate how they go beyond normal programming to make a difference to listeners’ lives”, include Talk Radio 702 of South Africa and Joy FM of Ghana. Here, the winner will walk away with US$10,000-worth of equipment of their choice.
The judges, BBC notes, did not select an eastern regional winner in this category “because the material submitted did not meet competition standards.”
It can only be hoped that the BBC Africa Radio Awards will assist Africa in using the radio to set the standards in the use of acceptable, standard language(be it Kiswahili, Hausa, Arabic or English)to ease communication, and to socialise Africans in fair play, respect for cultures and values, and to inform, educate and entertain all and sundry; that the liberalised airwaves will no longer spawn a plethora ethnic, religious and age-based FM stations that employ comedians whose trade mark is mimicry of ethnic accents as who throw caution to the wind, abuse freedom of expression and take themselves to be more important than the programmes they present with their almost every sentence punctuated with “You’re hanging out with me Parrot”, “I am Parrot”, “This is Parrot”.
And, before we forget,Â it isÂ hoped thatÂ Valerie Kimani will give a good account of herself. Many East Africans have been asking why her long promised albumÂ is long in coming since her winning the Tusker Project Fame controversially.