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One of radio’s most successful stories, Gareth Cliff made headlines when he announced on March 31 that he would not be returning to 5FM’s breakfast show. Loved by countless radio listeners, Cliff’s sudden exit caused a lot of speculation on where he would go next. But the outspoken radio personality remained mum. Tonight caught up with him recently at an Idols SA shoot and for the first time the radiohead opened up in detail about what he wants to do with his career.
GARETH CLIFF’s new radio – or what he calls “unradio” – endeavour was hatched while the DJ was still at 5FM.
“When I decided to leave 5FM I already had a plan in place,” he says.
“We are looking at a new kind of radio broadcasting which will be online, mobile and TV.”
For him the idea is something new to South Africa and he wants to give his listeners a different way of experiencing his radio skills.
“It’s unradio but radio. By this I mean that it will be accessed from anywhere else except on traditional radio channels. You will get to see it, you will get to have it on your phone or your laptop, you get to stream in from wherever you are and hopefully if we get it right we are working on giving it all free,” explained Cliff.
Launching on May 1, the ambitious endeavour will be the first of its kind and Cliff is confident it will take off.
“We are going to start off with 12 hours a day from 6am to 6pm and eventually we are hoping to go for 24 hours, and who knows, we might have three or four channels running simultaneously where we have full 24-hour programmes on four channels, can you imagine?
“Consumers will listen to anything they want, from shows of things like fishing, reality shows about a certain musician to old people’s opinions on the Kardashians. There is no limit to the things we can do.
“We are about serving the listener on what they want and giving it to them in a format that they like. They have the option to stop and play the content whenever they feel like it through downloading podcasts. We will also have very credible and interesting debates and news.
“We are looking at having cerebral material that we don’t have to dumb down to attract everybody. This is going to be smart stuff and so if it is too clever for you then don’t tune in on those shows. There will be other crazy things that you will probably like.”
Coming to his passion of morning radio, Cliff is looking to returning to the breakfast slot, but only on his terms.
“I am looking at also doing my morning show at the usual hours that I did before and competing against existing shows on radio and TV. I am trying to take my expertise up a level, and that excites me. I took my team with me and we are stronger than we have ever been. We were together at 5FM for about five years and I am proud of what we have achieved,” he said.
While this endeavour sounds innovative and amazing, of interest is the timing.
“Every year in April, stations do their line-up changes. Every year in January, I start thinking, is it worth it to go on another year,” he said.
He gets to the same point with his Idols SA gig.
“With Idols, I also wonder if I should do it another year. When it comes to contract negotiations I always wonder if I should do it for another year. If we agree on favourable conditions then I sign on. After spending some time in New York I met interesting people who gave me the best and most objective advice.
“Some of them have worked with Howard Stern whom I really look up to. I was first interviewed on his show in 2000. They have now got close to 27 million subscribers paying for radio every month. They pay because they appreciate the value. If I sat there and did my show at 5FM every morning and I knew they were easily making R300 000 per morning on my show, and I think about what I was earning there despite my ratings getting higher and higher, my salary never changed significantly,” he said.
Using that discovery as a motivation, Cliff took his team on his leap of faith and to his fans he promises nothing but great radio – or “unradio”.