Joburg Pride has lashed out at Jacaranda FM, its previous radio media partner, for ditching it at the last minute on the basis that the annual LGBT event is no longer “a brand fit”. This has resulted in Joburg Pride being without a radio media partner for the first time in five years.

The Joburg Pride Board said in a statement that while the station’s motto might be ‘it’s lekker,’ Jacaranda FM “clearly does not believe that its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) listeners are ‘lekker’”.

The Board expressed “its regret and disappointment” at the last-minute withdrawal of Jacaranda FM as the event’s media partner and questioned the station’s commitment to its LGBT listeners, based on the broadcaster’s justification for its decision.

“We’re surprised that Jacaranda FM sees fit that at around 10% of its audience is not worthy of consideration,” commented Joburg Pride Chair Tanya Harford. “The LGBT community represents a not-insignificant proportion of the wider South African society and, in turn, the station’s listenership. This is a slap in a face to our community.”

According to the Board, following last’s year’s successful partnership with Jacaranda, it  embarked on discussions with the station earlier this year to once again work together to promote the annual event.

Joburg Pride claims that while meetings between the two parties in the first half of the year were fruitful, in July the Board was unexpectedly informed in a meeting and then via e-mail by the station that the event was now no longer a “brand fit”.

The non profit organisation said that this was a considerable blow as it gave it less than two months to approach other media partners before it’s October 6 event. Joburg Pride added that members of the Board repeatedly requested meetings with Jacaranda management in an effort to get further clarity on the decision.

Jacaranda finally agreed to a meeting on September 20, in which, according to the Board, Station Manager Kevin Fine claimed that the decision to end the partnership with Pride had been taken at the end of 2011. Joburg Pride said that Fine was unable to explain why Pride was not informed then nor why discussions had continued into July 2012.

“He apologised that Jacaranda was in the wrong for having backed out so late in the day and blamed the station’s marketing manager for the situation. Despite this, he refused to reverse his decision, or to take organisational responsibility for commitments made by his team. He again affirmed that Joburg Pride was not a ‘brand fit,’” claimed the Pride statement.

“We’re admittedly outraged to have been strung along by Jacaranda until the last minute, adding unnecessary burdens to our efforts to put on a world class event, but the most galling issue of all is their prejudiced justification,” said Joburg Pride Board Member Kerry McMaster, who attended the meeting. “It shows an unsophisticated stance that is out of line with our democracy; one in which LGBT people are constitutionally guaranteed of equality.”

The Joburg Pride Board called on Jacaranda’s parent company, Kagiso Media, to explain to the LGBT community how its radio station’s position fits into Kagiso’s stated vision to “build communities for good”.

Joburg Pride also claims that at the September 20 meeting, Fine told McMaster and fellow Board member Fulvio De Stefanis “to not be so sensitive,” leading De Stefanis to retort that the LGBT community has no option but to be sensitive in the face of continued discrimination and violence against its members across the country. “Imagine, Mr. Fine stating that other minority communities such as Jewish people, or disabled people are not ‘a brand fit.’ This would be deservedly seen as outright prejudice,” said De Stefanis.

According to the Board, the Jacaranda incident highlights the importance of the theme of this year’s Joburg Pride: Protect our rights. “While Jacaranda’s stance is a relatively subtle form of homo-prejudice,” said the Board, “many LGBT South Africans are faced with more aggressive forms of discrimination. In a recent two month period, at least ten LGBT South African lost their lives in circumstance believed to be related to their  sexual orientation.

“It’s in this context that thousands of defiant LGBT South Africans and their friends and family will take to the streets of Rosebank on Saturday October 6 for the 22nd Joburg Pride Parade, the oldest and largest on the African continent. This will be followed by a festival at Zoo Lake Sports Club, where the community will celebrate its diversity and colour; showing all of South Africa that it is indeed very ‘lekker’ to be gay,” concluded the Board.

Mambaonline has contacted Jacaranda FM and has requested a response to Joburg Pride’s claims and for clarity on the station’s position towards the LGBT community and its LGBT listeners in particular.

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