In the latest instalment of her "Backstory" series, Gill Moodie writes exclusively for journalism.co.za:
The tweets started coming thick and fast at about 7am on Monday morning: top Talk Radio 702
presenter Redi Tlhabi would be interviewing President Jacob Zuma live on air from 9am till 10am.Joh!
Zuma had postponed an interview with Tlhabi a few weeks earlier so this was a surprise – as was the fact that the president would go live on air with a proper journalist who would ask tough questions.
And then it was tweeted that the interview would also be streamed live on 702’s YouTube channel. Ground-breaking stuff!
By 8.45am I was stationed in front of my PC, waiting and wondering if the interview would be plagued by the dreaded buffering – probably one of the most frustrating things for online users in South Africa, and which is brought on by our bandwidth limitations.
But, amazingly, there were only a few moments of buffering. Even more amazing was the fascinating insight the live streaming gave ordinary Joes into how radio works and what really hot radio looks like – from Tlhabi pacing nervously as Zuma was late getting to the studio (he was waylaid downstairs at 702) and then watching Tlhabi, cool as a cucumber, professional and polite while asking the most direct questions which Zuma has probably ever had to face live… and he took some calls from the public. This was truly democracy in action – and historic from a tech aspect.Click here for the full-length interview
(which starts about 10 minutes before Tlhabi’s show).
702 presenter and tech expert Aki Anastasiou told Journalism.co.za that according to Google – which was alerted to the interview beforehand because 702 was using Google+ Hangout for the live streaming – this was only the second time that a head of state had been on Google+ Hangout.
A Hangout is the video chat feature of Google’s social network Google+. Hangouts can be broadcast directly on YouTube. (Click here for more on this and the tech aspects of the Zuma interview in an article by ITWeb
Anastasiou says he is certain that Google helped to minimise buffering by increasing bandwidth allocation for the interview on Google+ Hangout.
The first head of state to do a Hangout interview, according to Google, was US President Barack Obama, who took questions live from members of the public on Hangout in January. (Click here to watch the interview
In the Obama interview, which drew 250 000 viewers, he took questions from five members of the public connected to Obama through remote video as well as questions submitted to the White House YouTube channel.
That about 4 500 people watched the live steaming of the Zuma video exceeded 702’s expectations, says Anastasiou, given that due to security concerns the presidency had asked the station to hold off marketing the 9am interview till the same morning. He was also surprised by how many people watched it on their cellphones and iPads.
Anastasiou, who helped to set up the tech for the interview, Is dead pleased with how the streaming worked and says the station used an audio feed directly from the studio desk – rather than the camera’s microphone – to make sure the sound was perfect while they opted for a lower-grade camera. This means the picture quality was far from perfect but, with SA’s bandwidth limitations, it kept the buffering at bay.
It’s not really possible to gauge the listenership for the interview, says 702 programme manager Alastair Teeling-Smith, but it was probably high considering that there was lots of action on the station’s Facebook page as well as on Twitter.
Trending topics in South Africa during the interview included ‘reditlhabi’, ‘zuma’, ‘education’, ‘democracy’, ‘corruption’ and ‘verwoerd’ – the latter coming from Zuma saying problems in the country’s education went back to apartheid architect HF Verwoerd, with which many on Twitter took issue as Tlhabi was asking about this year’s revelations about the non-delivery of text books
to schools in Limpopo among other provinces.
Teeling-Smith says the last time 702 got an interview with Zuma was about three years ago. “We’ve been badgering all sorts of people – Luthuli House and the presidency – for another interview. We have been working on it for a long time and they’ve always said ‘yes’ but we’ve had a problem nailing down the date.”
He was very happy with how the interview went.
“Redi prepares very well so she’s got the right questions,” says Teeling-Smith. “And she’s firm but also polite – and that’s really the style of radio that we try to do.”
Anastasiou says that after this successful experiment there will be more to come on 702.
“The visual aspect added a different dimension to the radio interview,” he says. “We (in SA) are coming into this now because we’ve got more broadband penetration… But, you know, this has been happening in the US and mature broadband countries for a couple of years.
“A medium like radio simply cannot ignore the usage of this technology alongside what you’re already doing. If you choose to ignore it, you will be left behind… The power of the medium combined with radio and Twitter and Facebook was quite amazing. To think that Verwoerd was trending (during the interview) on Twitter! Who would have thought he would be trending in 2012?”
For more:Highlights video of 702 interview with President Jacob Zuma
on YouTube, 23 July 2012
‘Zuma on the airwaves: The sound of nothing, the meaning of silence
’, Daily Maverick, 23 July 2012
‘ANC mobilizes zombie hunters as Zuma blames education crisis on Verwoerd
’, Hayibo, 24 July 2012
‘Public is the star of radio, says 702’s Chris Gibbons
’, Bizcommunity, June 2012
‘Investigative journalism on radio: not yet extinct
’, Journalism.co.za, November 2011