OFM, Central South Africa’s number one radio station, will be celebrating its 35th birthday this year. From the station’s humble beginnings in 1985 as an SABC evening broadcast of Radio Highveld in Bloemfontein covering the central South African region, it developed into having its own station, Radio Oranje in 1986.
In 2002, adopting its current name and format as well as a radical presenter line-up shift which signalled the end of the Radio Oranje sound, OFM has grown into the popular Sound Of Your Life radio station it is today. According to a statement by OFM, the station also launched a new logo, look and corporate identity in 2006, finally putting the past behind it. The change in focus saw the station appealing to a broader base of listeners.
As time went by, the station has been involved in major events, which include the annual OFM Classic Cycle Race in Bloemfontein, the Image Plus Roadshow, and the annual Radio Oranje Song Talent Competition. According to the CEO of Central Media Group (parent company of OFM), Nick Efstathiou, the community has always been close to the station’s heart. “There have been innumerable fundraising and charity projects over the years, such as when a tornado hit Welkom in 1990, and when a mining-related earthquake wreaked havoc in Stilfontein in 2005.”
He added that the radio station also created an emergency fund for victims of the Merriespruit mining dam disaster in the Free State Goldfields in 1994. Moreover, there were music concerts, golf days and blanket drives – all organised to assist those in need. Former CEO of OFM, Gary Stroebel, said that the audience initially reacted with derision, but audience numbers started to swell, and the station never looked back as the new sound reflected modern trends, not only in broadcasting, but also music.
OFM has also won its fair share of awards at the Artes, Loeries, Pendoring, South Africa’s radio industry awards, and many others. The station’s various departments, including news and advertising, have shown that they can compete with the best in the business… and win. Although it is impossible to mention all the memorable voices who gained a loyal following among OFM’s audience, over the past almost four decades, longtime listeners will remember legendary presenters such as Manie Kitching, Bruce McEwan, Eddie Goldberg, Pieter du Bois, Eloise Pretorius, James Kilbourn, Angie Khumalo, Riva Schoeman, Tim Thabethe (the current programme manager), Pieter Möller, Darren Scott and Rian van Heerden. Another well-known name, although behind the scenes, was the beloved Afrikaans musician, Lucas Maree, who was the music compiler.
Former MD of OFM, Albé Grobbelaar, said he believes one of the main reasons for the station’s success and the loyalty of listeners and clients towards the station over the years, has always been the fact that the station is from this region and for this region, with its focus on local music.
“In addition, OFM, with talented people on the programming, news, production, technical and management sides, has been able to constantly face and adapt to new challenges.” Grobbelaar said the station can be very proud of the number of people who have reached great heights in broadcasting in the national market all over the country, based on the foundations laid and what they had learned during their years of broadcasting at OFM.