MASERU — Ultimate FM presenters have been ordered to stop promoting “wannabe” musicians on the government-owned radio station.
The development has sparked an outcry from the station’s presenters and industry representatives who say the ban will stifle local talent.
Upcoming artists in Lesotho struggle to get their careers off the ground and in most cases they only get a head-start when their demos, predominantly in the Sesotho language, are played by the local broadcasters.
However, Ultimate FM — which broadcasts in English and is targeted at the youth — has ordered a stop to that practice.
“The radio station is an English content station,” station manager Lefu Manyokole told Xpress People.
“It is not a promotional platform for wannabes.”
Manyokole said he had recently chucked out of the broadcaster’s studio in Maseru an “unknown” musician he suspected had cut a deal with a presenter for promotional time.
“I went in the studio and switched off the machine and chased the so-called musician out of my studio,” Manyokole said.
“Ultimate FM supports credible musicians who have started making themselves stars.”
Presenters at the station however say the move is tantamount to a total ban of almost all local music.
They say the ban was announced at a recent meeting of Ultimate FM’s staffers and managers.
The Ministry of Communication’s principal secretary, Tseliso ‘Mokela, reportedly also attended the meeting.
“We were told to stop playing local music because of its poor production quality,” a presenter who asked for anonymity told Xpress People.
“If we played local music, we would get angry calls from our station manager condemning that.”
Manyokole however said the station had not imposed a blanket ban on all local music.
“We have not banned local music but we do not condone turning the station into a promotional radio station for people who don’t have portfolios,” he said.
Manyokole appeared to suggest some presenters were clandestinely asking the artists they featured during their programmes to pay them for the “favour”.
He said Ultimate FM “will not allow presenters to enrich themselves with promotional programmes while the station is not making money from the artists being promoted”.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Music Rights Association has condemned the ban.
“It is a disgrace to see a local radio station insulting our potential to growth while South African radio stations are helping to put us on a higher level in the industry,” Ramosa Bosiu, the association’s spokesman, told Xpress People.
“I would understand if they wouldn’t play my music as I am a gospel artist but the likes of Stlofa and other youngsters deserve to have their fair share of radio promotion because they appeal to young people.”
He said Ultimate FM, because of the ban as well as its English content, had lost its relevance to local artists and listeners.
“The station is meant to appeal to young people of this country but it does not educate them on Lesotho’s developments,” Bosiu said.
“We hear their content always focuses on international socialites who are already receiving enough promotion in their own countries.”
A DJ at Ultimate FM said the development was a big blow to Lesotho’s nascent music industry.
She said she would defy the ban although she would now only play less local music.
“I see myself as an ambassador for local talent and I would not be doing justice to local talent by abandoning the efforts to grow the music industry,” the DJ said.
“I advocate local talent so I will still play local music but at a minimum rate as compared to what was happening before because I am not a decision-maker.”