Meet one of SA radio’s youngest program managers

Sanele Mlotana never seems to run out of energy. But again, as a program manager for Mix 93.8 FM, she needs to be aware of her twenty-four-twenty-seven game.

Managing a legion of presenters, programming, quality and all aspects of what makes a radio station successful can sometimes be like herding cats.

The Dreadlocked Mlotana has turned challenges into dividends for the station as it grows stronger. From radio legends like Tony Blewitt and Darren Scott to young men like Damien Schmidt and sports caster Sloo Phaho, she’s curated a daily and weekly lineup that provides listeners with a solid entertainment story on Mix FM.

Q&A with Sanele Mlotana:

Where did your career in radio start?

My career in radio started long before I really took it up as a career. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to let us listen to radio dramas, and I always wondered how those people got into that little box and told such intriguing stories. That’s when the radio bug bit me. Years later I studied radio production and have never looked back since.

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So radio has a very special place in your heart?

It’s close and special to me, simply because it was the one thing that brought my family closer together every night, back in the day. I thank my late grandmother for that. I have vivid memories of her, sometimes listening to funeral announcements, and sometimes learning about different family funerals and that was very special to me, and that’s something you would never see on television.

Your career really comes into its own at Mix 93.8FM.

My journey at Mix FM is one that is really close to my heart. I started at the radio station as an intern fresh out of college in 2013. Now I’m part of the station’s senior management team and that’s something to be proud of at 29 years old. When I was 27 I became a program manager.

But this place is my home and what makes it special is how it feels… It’s warm, light and full of love. From presenters to employees and everyone involved, it’s just one big family and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It is authentic and represents everything I stand for.

What is it like to be a program manager for a radio station that seems to be on a huge growth trajectory?

For lack of a better word I’d say it’s fantastic! Nothing is more satisfying than being a part of something that is growing exponentially every day. It is very satisfying to know that all our hard work is going towards a visible goal.

What does your average day look like?

This is a difficult one to answer. It’s a family rooted station, you find yourself doing everything you can to make sure no one falls short in their quest to keep this beautiful ship afloat. I work closely with on-air personalities to ensure that the on-air product they produce is of the highest quality.

I also work hand in hand with the sales and marketing team to devise strategies that will bring revenue to the station. My favorite activity, however, is working with presenters and helping them with new concepts for show features and on-the-air performances that make for memorable radio.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

The only hard thing is I can’t make it to the office. I love my job so much that nothing is too difficult for me. I always find a solution to every problem. My team knows that I’m solution-oriented and not problem-oriented, so I never have really hard times in my profession.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Very easy “make great radio” with really great people.

How did you manage programming during the pandemic?

I am a solution oriented person. I’ve had the best time navigating this pandemic. I thought it was a blessing because it took most of us out of our comfort zone and made us think outside the box for a change.

We’ve had some really challenging times, but we’ve all survived and we are now more confident in our systems, equipment and ability to operate under enormous pressure, like what was forced upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic. I mean we introduced a whole new show that was done live from Bloemfontein every night and sounded so brilliant you’d never guess it wasn’t in the studio, in Joburg.

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