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S.African public radio introduces 90% local music quota

South Africa’s public broadcaster on Thursday introduced a 90 percent local music quota on all its radio stations, in a move welcomed by campaigners as a boost to the domestic industry.

The South African Broadcasting Service (SABC), which oversees 18 radio stations, said special focus would be given to kwaito — a local pop genre that emerged in 1990s — jazz, reggae and gospel.

It said the quota was to ensure “more local content that reflects the diversity of South African cultures… following extensive and successful engagements with some music representatives”.

It pledged to play more music from “legends in the industry as well as up-and-coming artists”.

South Africa has produced internationally-acclaimed musicians like the late Miriam Makeba, Johnny Clegg, Grammy-winning Hugh Masekela and male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Much of South Africa’s airwaves are taken up by American “RnB” and pop artists such as Maria Carey, who completed a tour of the country last week.

Veteran jazz pianist and music producer Don Laka, who led the campaign for more local music, hailed the decision.

“This is an historic day for the South African music industry,” he told AFP.

“In my engagement with SABC, we were fighting for 80 percent of the music played on air to be local, so the 90 percent is a bonus,” he said.

“Sometimes you find that as musicians our work is more recognised and valued overseas than here at home. That is a shame.”

SABC’s radio stations broadcast in all of the country’s 11 official languages, including English and Afrikaans.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the broadcaster’s chief operating officer, said “stations will not be confined to playing local music which is language specific.”

“We want to come to a point where any of our 18 radio stations can become a home for all South Africans,” he said.

The African National Congress (ANC) government also welcomed the move, saying the quota would contribute to the preservation of “diverse cultures”.

“This is proof of the broadcaster’s efforts to build social cohesion,” it said a statement.

According to a report by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), South Africa’s music market was expected to grow in value by 0.4 percent over a five-year period to 2.2 billion rand ($146 million) in 2017.

SABC said it would review the new policy after an unspecified time.

“We believe there is enough South African music (to fill the airtime) because it is world-class music,” SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told AFP.

No restrictions have been imposed on South Africa’s popular commercial stations.