Putting the magic back into SA broadcasting

Tony Sanderson is the ‘doesn’t look or sound like he’s in his 70s’ radio personality behind the success of Magic 828AM, which had roughly 80,000 listeners at their last own-audited report from end-November 2016. He elaborates on how they’re getting the broadcast model right and what’s wrong with radio.

Sanderson is the man behind the concept of ‘Solid Gold’, a radio engineer who helped create the country’s original Broadcasting Act back in 1999. He also designed and built the station itself with emphasis on the importance of back up as well as a separate prep room for DJs to ensure they’re ready for the show away from the distractions of the main studio. Their backing by AEEI Group, the biggest BEE company listed on the stock exchange, is also impressive, but Sanderson’s about more than just meeting the legal BEE requirement – he has a true love of the law and his DJs are on air not to fill quotas but because of an innate talent, something you can’t just pick up.

For example, brunch time DJ Graeme White was on-air on Monday, 30 January just after 10am when Sanderson walked me around for a look and feel of the studio space – easily chatting while programming his show on screen. And when last did you have the opportunity to step out of the office onto a patio where you can breathe in the fresh air with a panoramic view of Devil’s Peak? For me it was in a previous job, when I was based in Pinelands, but that’s what the Magic 828 staff do daily, as they’re based at 45 Raapenberg Road – Sanderson says they’re the only truly independent station in SA as they control their own mast.

The true meaning of broadcast independence

Sanderson adds that the worst radio disc jockeys or DJs are those who share their personal woes on air – we’re just not concerned with what the DJ’s day was like, stubbed toes and spilled coffee aside, as we have our own issues to deal with and are overwhelmed with content on a daily basis. There’s too much talk – opinionated talk, at that – and not enough music hits.

That’s why Magic828 follows the EVE model, which is one that works overseas that they’ve adapted well for the local market: It means their audience gets Entertainment, Variety and Education, in that order, from a mix of legendary and new talent such as that of author Carol Mashigo on the weekday late-night slot; drive show host David Guselli, who has racked up 35 years behind the mic; and the fresh voice of Nicola Duddy.

These DJs don’t touch the music format at all, nor will you hear that repetitive playlist at Magic 828. Instead, it offers pop, ballads and love songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, with a fine thread of what Sanderson calls ‘future gold’, with hits from the likes of crooner Bruno Mars that you just know will be on request for decades to come. The station listens to its listeners too, having done away with rock music on Sunday nights as it just wasn’t drawing the crowds.


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