The breeding ground of legends, the ultimate platform for any presenter, the muse for any music compiler, the only station that gets you to live loud – this is the power of 5FM. In an increasingly saturated broadcast industry, there are very few opportunities for aspiring presenters, producers and compilers to engage with, and learn from, the very best. This is what makes the biannual 5FM internship week a crucial catalyst for the shaping of young broadcast talent in South Africa. This week-long programme, where a group of up to ten interns are taken into the very heart of 5FM, occurs in January and July each year with a very stringent selection criteria. “We get sent up to 40 CV’s and demos a day sometimes,” admits Marika Malliaris, music compiler at 5FM and coordinator of the internship class of January 2018. “The candidates complete application forms and these help us choose people who have been pursuing their passion in the industry to some degree. This programme is 5FM’s way of helping them to the next level.”
Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we sat in the entrance of the SABC studios in Auckland Park, eager for the laughs and lessons that were sure to follow in the week ahead. From the onset it was clear that most interns had studied or were in the process of studying a broadcasting or media degree of some sort. However, 5FM Station manager, Justine Cullinan, highlights that you don’t necessarily have to have studied in the media field. “A degree is essentially a passport, it doesn’t matter what stamp it has. It doesn’t always matter what you studied, but just that you studied. Any degree helps establish as sense of self-discipline, so you can actually come from any type of background.” Curating a brand as bold and consistent as that of 5FM takes a team of passionate professionals with diverse areas of specialty. Although presenting was a key focus for many interns, other avenues such as music compilers, content producers, as well as public relations and marketing were all areas of interest.
In an idea-driven society, confidentiality with sensitive information is needed to ensure 5FM maintains its characteristic edge above the competition. However, the internship was filled with priceless pieces of advice from various sources.
BOSS LADY SESSIONS
After an initial introductory meeting, the #BossLady herself, 5FM station manager Justine Cullinan conducted an intimate and interactive Q and A session.
Justine started off her career studying journalism and media at Rhodes University. Her journey took her from being a booker for a comedian, to working in a PR agency, to eventually finding her black and red home at 5FM in marketing. “Working in different areas of the industry helped me understand that you are only as good as your last gig. Everything you do is a PR moment.”
From co-coordinating presenters, to securing deals and outside partnerships, to general strategic direction, the role of station manager is as multifaceted as Justine herself. Since taking over as station manager three years ago, Justine has grown the 5FM brand by incorporating new show focuses such as “The Weekenders;” as well as introducing community involvement in the “Young Blood 5” segments.
Maintaining and growing a brand as well-known as 5FM requires smarts, strategy and little bit of sass, which Justine exudes with every sip of a much needed morning coffee. “We love that the 5FM audience is never passive. Just like our listeners, we are always moving forward. This is reflected in our line-up as we bring in young talent as part of our succession plan.” Indeed 5FM has become a symbol of the celebration of individualism and everything that makes you “live loud.” The importance of maintaining this brand in all areas of operation is stressed by Justine, who notes that listeners seldom move for talent alone. “If there is a reshuffling of a presenter, the brand often proves to be more powerful than the individual.”
When asked about the challenges of thriving and not just surviving in the industry, Justine highlights the need to diversify one’s skills as much as possible. “Things like knowing how to do your own digital content production is a major asset. Gather as many skills as possible, it makes it harder for me to get rid of you.”