The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

A group of Indian religious and cultural leaders is planning to meet the newly installed South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board and the new communications minister to urge them to exempt Lotus FM from the 90/10 local music policy in a bid to save the faltering station.

The 90/10 policy was imposed unilaterally on the SABC by former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng. He argued the directive would bolster local performers and help the SABC save money.

But critics and industry experts hit back at the decision, saying it was populist and not financially viable.

The Durban-based, 33-year-old Lotus FM has lost millions of rand in revenue since the decree came into effect in June 2016.

When the decree took effect, the station’s listenership fell by 130,000 from 390,000 to 260,000 in the first four months. Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and chairman of the Save Our Lotus FM group, said they were concerned about the falling ratings and revenue of Lotus FM and worried that the station might soon have to close down if this slide was not arrested.

"We have heard that now the station has lost more than 40% of its listenership to other stations. It is continuing to lose advertising revenue. We are worried about the station’s state of affairs and we cannot fold our arms and do nothing.

"We will be writing to the interim board to seek an urgent meeting to sort out the problems at the station. If we fail with the interim board, we will escalate this matter and seek an audience with the new minister of communications, Ayanda Dlodlo," said Trikamjee.

He added that they had met recently with former communications minister Faith Muthambi and expressed their concerns and that she (Muthambi) had promised to look into their matter and speak to relevant people at the SABC.

"We are doing all these things because Lotus FM has been a very important part of the Indian heritage for decades, we cannot allow it to die before our very own eyes," he said.

The actions of this group come at a time when there is confusion about whether or not the SABC will relax the 90/10 local music policy.

Krish Pillay, one of the SABC interim board members, told journalists last week that the board would meet to discuss the issue of relaxing this policy to bolster the coffers of SABC stations, which he said had suffered untold revenue and listenership losses after the policy came into effect.

However, SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told Business Day that the matter of relaxation of the 90/10 policy was created by the media.

"Everybody has been pre-empting a decision on this policy. I think we should give the interim board sufficient time to discuss this matter and come to a decision.

"The interim board was only inducted last week and now everyone wants it to jump into this matter. There are many other urgent matters that this board must deal with, it’s not only the 90/10 policy," Kganyago said.

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