Changes at Harvest not political: Lekhoaba

NKOATE THAMAE

‘Malichaba Lekhoaba, the managing director of Harvest FM, one of the most popular local private radio stations in the country, has decided to reshuffle radio presenters on different radio programmes and some radio listeners are unhappy.

The uproar by some of Harvest FM’s supporters emerged after famous radio presenter, Relebohile Moyeye, who runs a popular politics programme called Tsa Mabatooa was also affected by Harvest FM’s reshuffle.

From Metro newspaper’s observation, some members of All Basotho Convention (ABC) aligned to the Likatana faction, were very delighted with ’Malichaba’s decision while members of the other ABC faction known as State House were displeased with Harvest FM reshuffle.

Some listeners reportedly accused Moyeye of putting his personal political views in the programme resulting in unprofessional bias. Critics cite especially his alleged failure to give the warring ABC factions an equal opportunity to air their opinions on Harvest FM Radio.

Moyeye, accused of being politically affiliated to the State House faction, once served in the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Khonyana Phiri coalition administration. He has since been reshuffled from the Tsa Mabatooa programme to another programme called Bacha ba Matla. Lekhooa Tsolo will take over the Tsa Mabatooa radio programme.

In an exclusive interview with Metro newspaper on April 19, 2019, Lekhoaba indicated that Harvest FM is one of the dominant radio stations in the country, which is why there is particular interest from Harvest FM’s radio supporters in anything that takes place on the radio station.

Below are excerpts of the exclusive interview.

Metro: In your view, why is there so much interest from the public concerning the reshuffle of your radio presenters, especially Moyeye who is also accused of eying a political post in the ABC State House faction?

Lekhoaba: I am not in a position to predict Harvest FM supporters’ interests on the reshuffling issue. However, my decision to reshuffle came up after realising that my presenters have spent a long time on radio programmes without rotating.

Most of the time when a presenter spends a long time on a particular radio programme, they always have bad tendency to start behaving as if they own such a programme and as soon as that comes to my attention, I immediately reshuffle such a presenter.

Metro: There is rumour that the Likatana’s faction, which supports the newly elected ABC National Executive Committee, bribed you to reshuffle Moyeye from the Tsa Mabatooa radio programme?

Lekhoaba: This is not true, and it is blatant lie (Leshano la joaleng).

I am obviously not surprised by these allegations and the idea of being implicated in a bribe’s triangle is not new to me. in this regard, I would like to emphasise that this reshuffle also affected most of my presenters, not specifically Moyeye, who is the centre of attraction to Harvest FM Radio supporters at large.

Metro: What qualities do you look for in a presenter in order to assign a specific presenter to a particular radio programme?

Lekhoaba: It all depends on each radio programme’s requirements and I am trying by all means to ensure that every presenter is able to run all radio programmes without any difficulty. In addition to that, I do it in such a way that a radio programme will still remain attractive to the listeners and provided that such a radio presenter has suitable qualities to run a certain radio programme.

Metro: What can you say about some of the Harvest FM supporters’ opinion that Moyeye is unprofessional and biased when dealing with warring factions and he doesn’t give parties with rival opinions an equal opportunity to air their views on radio?

Lekhoaba: From my own perspective, I have realised that listeners have their own perspective and individual interests so I can’t be in the position to control their views on certain issues and it is not always possible for a radio station to please all listeners. What I have noticed is that the same people who are now complaining about Moyeye were feeling comfortable when things were done in their favour just before friction within the ABC.

Metro: Do you have time to identify possible mistakes that your Radio Presenters make while they are running live radio programmes?

Lekhoaba: In actual fact, due to my busy work schedule, I do not always have to listen to all live radio programmes until I sometimes receive complaints from some of my listeners about specific radio programmes. Let me cite a case of Mpho Serobanyane who lodged his complaint on my table that Moyeye aired news involving his name on the radio without verifying such information with him.

I then conducted my own investigations on the matter and later discovered that Moyeye actually made a telephone interview with Serobanyane but the problem only emerged when Serobanyane thought that his story was not well presented by Moyenye on radio. It is a good idea if a news source is given a platform to explain herself or himself on the radio to avoid any possible mispronunciation of someone’s story.

Metro: What is your take on the issue of politicians who misuse journalists to their advantage in order to serve their political interests?

Lekhoaba: This is unacceptable practice whereby politicians try all means to determine how our institutions should carry out their work in order to serve their political ends. I personally dislike this practice and it is even worse if it comes from politicians who always influence our radio presenters to be biased and serve their political interests, promising them high ranking positions in government.

I have noticed that when a cabinet minister adores a radio presenter, such a radio presenter becomes big headed in such a way that she or he always undermines his or her supervisor’s instructions. It is unacceptable for government officials to promise journalists political posts which they are not even academically qualified for.

Metro: Are there any measures in place to stop your radio presenters from being misused by politicians, enticing them with political positions?

Lekhoaba: I am not in a position to reveal my new strategy which will be implemented after the reshuffle, but it is something which I have never done before and it will help my radio presenters to be free from any political influence. Moreover, I will have to authorise all content of radio programmes just before they are aired on my radio station just to add more control measures.

Metro: Are you not afraid of being victimised by government, especially in the case of Moyeye’s reshuffle since he is alleged to be politically affiliated to the State House ABC faction that is allegedly favoured by ABC leader, Prime Minister Dr Thomas Motsohae Thabane?

Lekhoaba: I am ready for any possible attack from government and I should mention from the onset that my radio station only gets 5% of its adverts from government and even these are actually paid after a very long time. I am used to surviving without necessarily depending on adverts from government and this scenario happened long time ago way back in early 2006, therefore the issue of being sidelined by the government of the day for adverts cannot affect my business.

Metro: How do you manage to pay your staff?

Lekhoaba: Harvest FM is one of the local private radio stations which pays their staff very well and consistently with an attachment of other benefits such as affordable means of purchasing personal cars. It is very unfortunate that some of my staff don’t appreciate my effort to give them decent salaries and other benefits because they are not exposed to how other private radio stations pay their staff.

Most of the revenue for my radio station is generated from the private sector, especially pastors who lead different churches and are always buying radio slots on my radio station.

In this regard I must say Harvest FM is leading with up to 63 churches supporting my radio station, which is more than any other local radio in the country. I appreciate financial support from churches because they make a significant contribution to our revenue despite the fact that we charge them adverts at relatively low rates since churches are not profit making organisations.

Metro: Are there any plans in place to encourage team work among the staff in such a way that radio presenters share news sources?

Lekhooaba: From my observation, team work always remains a challenge to my staff since some of them are too mean to share news information with their collogues.

Metro: How do you spot someone with a “radio personality”?

Lekhoaba: From my point of view, a radio presenter’s work is not everybody’s cup of tea because it needs someone with talent to do this work. In addition to this I have noticed that someone with a radio personality doesn’t need a degree or a distinction from journalism school.

Even though tertiary education plays a vital role to equip a radio presenter with journalism knowledge, one must think outside the box and be very creative to attract more listenership to his program. I personally would rather employ a raw person without any radio background as long as such a person has the sound skills I am looking for.

Metro: What is your radio station’s motive in creating radio spots such as a case whereby someone is demanding payment from government official for the services rendered which end up with warning that “Le basebetsi ba fielang ba ‘Muso baea tseba hore ‘Muso o chonne” meaning even government cleaners know that government is facing financial challenges?

Lekhoaba: In actual fact those radio spots communicate two massages; the first one is all about government officials who are not committed to paying government service providers well on time while the second one is all about warning government that electors at grassroots level are not happy with service delivery from government ministries.

This is part of entertainment and counselling service respectively targeted at someone who has been deprived of his or her payment well on time. I am personally writing a script for those radio adverts and to Lekau la Poho’s actor Monaheng to construct radio spots with his acting skills and deep voice.

Metro: Does your radio station practice pluralism and inclusion whereby every member of the community is free to air his or her own religion and traditional information on radio?

Lekhoaba: Harvest FM is a Christian radio station which is strictly aligned to Christian principles therefore there is no way we can compromise on anything which is non-compliant with Christianity.

Let me make a typical example of one company from South Africa which offered my radio station a lot of money for advertise condoms which I declined because it was not compliant with my radio station’s ethics since we don’t advertise both condoms and liquor.

However, I have no problem with general matters which don’t contradict Christian principles.

Metro: Tell us about your radio station’s dream in the near future.Lekhoaba: We have recently purchased a site where Harvest FM will develop its own building premises at Mohalalitoe. Cutting off monthly rental fees will also enable us to venture into other developments to improve our radio station and other things. Secondly, we are planning to own Harvest Television station in the near future. Even if we are given our own TV channel through digital migration, we will be satisfied as long as our TV activities will be given enough slot to run. Our TV station will also cover community projects that Basotho at large may be interested to watch.

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