In the last couple of weeks I have been listening to the radio a lot, mainly Cape Talk 567, to keep up with the news, the current climate of sentiment in South Africa, and because I enjoy the challenging, funny, irreverent and sometimes razor sharp attack of Eusebius McKaiser. He doesn’t let a thing slide, and he calls out the white privilege of those who dare to call in, pointing out their hideous assumptions, lack of awareness, and the outrageousness of how badly they want to be heard and recognised as sufferers or victims. He is so good at it; so good at the outrage, the debate, the breaking it down into bite size pieces, so good at carrying the thread for maximum traction. He is a jolly fabulous talk radio host and I do love him.
What I have been finding more and more problematic though, is what happens when, in Eusebius’s own words there needs to be an ad break ‘to go shopping’. I know that Joburg (where Eusebius sits) and 702 land’s advertising is different from what we get here in Cape Town, but I am always utterly shocked by what is being advertised to whom. And, of course, in case we ever forget, who holds the purse strings. Cars on special for only R369 000. Holiday packages beyond the reach of anyone I know. Retirement homes in retirement villages. Insurance and investment packages. Vehicle tracking systems for cars. Very, very expensive things for the rich, white few.
This is not the demographic of people who listen to the radio, (although in Cape Talk’s case, from the complaining white constituency you would probably think so), and yet, only the rich white few are targeted as relevant for advertising. It makes business sense. Sell to those who have the money. That’s the whole point of advertising. But it so often buys straight into everything that Eusebius (and others) are railing against. It is the whole system, run by white capital, and the independent media is no exception.
So often white callers quote ‘business facts’ raised by Eusebius’s colleague Bruce Whitfield on his The Money Show, and sometimes I end up hearing bits of Bruce as well, mainly when I am driving at that time and the radio in my car is on. And let’s face it, I know that the show tries as hard as it can to have as many black voices featured on it, but the voices and faces of big (and small and medium) business in South Africa are still predominantly, largely, and only with the rare exception, white. Then there is the content on that show, aimed at those who have disposable income, regular jobs, property, annuities, insurance, medical aid, cars, investment portfolios. Who are these people? They are mainly, and for the most part white.
So, what’s my problem? It’s this. In a world where we are trying to have the honest conversations that Eusebius tries to have, we have to acknowledge how even he and the radio station he works for are propped up and supported by the very thing he is trying to engage critically about. And I find the adverts uncomfortable. I find them garish, and insensitive and completely out of touch. And yet, they are aimed directly at where the money is.
This system is deeply entrenched. It underlies the fibre of even those that dare criticise it. It marginalises and excludes the masses. It is as dishonest as only advertising can be.