South African radio DJ fired over payola

Amidst countless other controversies currently taking place at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the organisation recently announced that it has fired radio DJ Vukani Masinga - better known as Chilli M - over ‘payola’ and plans to open a criminal case against him.

Radio DJ Chilli M has admitted to taking bribes. Photo: www.all4women.co.za
Radio DJ Chilli M has admitted to taking bribes. Photo: www.all4women.co.za

'Payola' refers to the exchange of money, gifts or favours to radio presenters and playlist compilers who then favour, slot and play certain songs more. Though illegal it is believed to remain a worldwide problem.

The SABC confirmed that Chilli M was booted from the SABC, where he co-hosted Ukhozi FM’s weekday midday show ‘Nethezeka NoKhozi’, after admitting to having accepted "some form of enticement in exchange for playlisting music". Chilli M had been with the station, South Africa’s largest, since 2012.

Since the 90% local music airplay decree by troubled SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng in May, questions have emerged as to how the SABC is going to better combat the occurrence of payola.

The SABC confirmed their decision in a statement released in early July: "The SABC has terminated with immediate effect, the contract of Mr Vukani 'Chilli M' Masinga'. The termination follows an investigation into allegations of payola. Mr Masinga admitted to accepting some form of enticement in exchange for playlisting music of the people who enticed him. 

“The corporation has also taken a decision to institute a criminal case against all parties who were involved. The SABC would like to remind the public that there is a process at all its 18 radio stations to submit music and would like to encourage members of the public not to engage in payola and should they encounter such challenges to bring it to the attention of the organization. The organisation will continue to have a zero tolerance for fraud and corruption."

DJ admits to taking bribes, blames financial ‘distress’

Speaking to the Daily Sun a few days later, Chilli M admitted to accepting money to playlist certain songs and explained that his financial troubles after the death of his daughter. "Every company has its own policies. I went against SABC policy and I paid the price. I was tempted because I had lost my daughter and was in financial distress," he told the publication.

Chilli M lost his daughter Nkanyezi in a car accident near Hartbeespoort Dam in North West province in November 2015 while the family was returning from a holiday, a story covered in the same publication at the time.

Despite this, the DJ maintains that he does "not need sympathy from anyone" and is currently dealing with the situation. "I have lost my job, but I am glad I was part of the biggest radio station in the country. I thank the station’s management for giving me the opportunity. I will now be focusing on other interests and spending time with my family," Chilli M said.

According to reports by Sunday Sun last month, kwaito group Street Boys claimed that Chilli M had charged them R7 500 to play their song on the radio station.

No stranger to public scrutiny, in July 2015 Chilli M spoke at an alcohol awareness event alongside DJ Oskido and former soccer star Jabu Mahlangu at the launch of the 'Young Free and Educated' programme for the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA). At the time Chilli M revealed that his doctor had told him he would not live to see 2016 as his liver was giving in due to sustained alcohol abuse.

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