Radio. Picture: THINKSTOCK
Radio. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Activists behind the online petition ‘Save Lotus FM,’ say they have received overwhelming support and more than 5,000 signatures in one week.

The petition was launched by the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and other religious and cultural groups in Durban with the intention of achieving a public mandate to challenge the SABC’s policy of introducing 90% local content (music) and 10% foreign.

Interested parties can go to the South African Hindu Maha Sabha website to sign the petition, which has the pay-off line, Not everything is black and white and emphasises both the South African and Indian identity of its listeners.

Between May and October 2016 Lotus FM saw its average listener numbers falling by about 130,000, from 390,000 to 260,000 — a third of its listeners. The radio station also saw a huge decline in revenue.

This was blamed mainly on the station playing local music that does not resonate with their listeners.

Lotus FM describes itself as a metropolitan, music and talk-focused Indian lifestyle station, reflecting the music, culture and lifestyle of the progressive South African Indian community.

Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and convenor of the Save Lotus FM committee, said although they knew that many Indian people were irked by the 90-10 decision, they did not expect such overwhelming support.

"The authoritarian imposition of the 90% local content on SABC radio stations has serious negative implications for minority groups, especially for South Africans of Indian descent. This has had a devastating effect for Lotus FM.

He said they want to use the petition to approach Communications Minister Faith Muthambi to reason with her to review the 90-10 decision.

"We are saying we are not against the promotion of local music per se. But we strongly feel that this must be introduced gradually to allow the local artist to produce and create local Indian music that will resonate with the listeners," Trikamjee said.

He added they have been in talks with the Department of Communications’ officials to secure a meeting with Muthambi "somewhere in January".

Muthambi’s spokesman, Ayanda Holo, was not available for comment on Monday.

Lotus FM officials declined to comment on the petition.

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