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Student radio not what it used to be

In many parts of the world student radio stations are bastions of progressivism and staffed by active, engaged students who lead discussions against injustice and stand up for persecuted and vulnerable groups and communities. In the US, where I spent several years teaching at university, radio stations typically get involved in progressive causes: LGBT issues, environmental issues, gender violence, racism – these are all the topics they engage with. The University of Pretoria Radio station, Tuks FM, has to be one of the most narrow-minded, unprofessional and offensive institutions on air.

News reports are poorly written and often presenters laugh or giggle while reading the news. That’s just unprofessional. What is even more offensive is the ugly rubbish they peddle about things that happen “only in Africa” – which is invariably code-speak for deeply racist views. Of course there are no racists in South Africa. We live in a racist country where there are no racists. Except, though, if you point out that one particular group who have dominated the country for 400 years continue to enjoy the vertically segmented privileges of centuries of exclusivity – then THAT is racism. I shall write more about that on another occasion; about the shift in morality…

Anyway back to Tuks FM. Having spent the past 12 months living in Pretoria, I often turn to them for music. They play the greatest diversity of music I enjoy; from Jack Parow to Jimi Hendrix. The people who work at the station are, however, some of the most ill-informed, misguided young people I have listened to. Their asinine comments and self-righteousness knows no bounds – especially when it comes to things that “only happen in Africa”. In one commentary earlier this year the jock behind the mike spoke sarcastically about an octogenarian who was raped. He suggests this was something unique to post-apartheid. So I sent them a link to similar cases in the US and Britain. This did not seem to make any impact. Last Friday, October 18, in their spot “TIA” – This is Africa – they told the story about a police car being stolen and then crashed. The wise jock explained he had never heard of something like that anywhere else in the world.

We know he is not racist – ask Malan or Hofmeyr; there is no racism in South Africa and whites have never done anything wrong. What is deeply troubling is that it took me less than 30 seconds to find, online, a list of more than a 1 000 similar incidents in North America. Now given the self-absolution that is so pervasive in South Africa I don’t expect the radio jocks and sycophantic (giggling female) voices that affirm everything the real men say on the station (they don’t seem to realise how they are reproducing sexist, patriarchal stereotypes), to abandon their Afro-pessimism (we will not call it racism). Hell they can’t even accept that 400 years of domination, exclusion, the forced movement of millions of people to remote parts of the country and that the destruction of communities and families over centuries have a lasting, inter-generational effect on contemporary South Africa and that this can help us understand dislocation, overcrowding and the collapse of infrastructure in urban areas…

For the rest of us this link is to the source of hundreds of police cars that were stolen – not in Africa. The US evidence is especially pertinent because the jocks (as well as those on Five FM, Metro, among others) use the US as a reference point for almost EVERYTHING they do. It is as if the rest of the world is a cultural void. Recently Jacaranda FM joked about Arab culture, faked Arabic accents and laughed hysterically when someone was accidentally killed at a wedding because a gun was fired into the air at said wedding. The worst part of all is that their offensive behaviour and conduct hides behind a veneer of self-given innocence and absolution. About these, latter, issues I will publish something later.