Gareth Cliff resigned from 5FM on the 31st of March, 2014. That day the internet in South Africa held hands and cry together.
And while we were wiping our tears, we had already started wondering: did he eventually push too hard and got the boot? Or had he, as he said, had enough?
Juju played a big part in his decision
“Why did I really leave 5FM? In the increasingly stifling environment of the SABC, as much as I loved my show, and especially my audience, I couldn’t have continued working on an annual contract. National elections were coming up and we had been given strict instructions of what we could and couldn’t say.
“I had interviewed Julius Malema when he was still with the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and wanted to catch up when he left; this had been forbidden. I had enjoyed relative freedom up until then, but the signs of interference were starting to show. When I started CliffCentral.com a month later, Julius was my second guest. Freedom at last.”
A changing landscape
Gareth says that when it was time for a contract renewal, he questioned whether he should stay on.
“Each year I contemplated whether it was time to go. Was I still relevant for the station and, quite frankly, was 5FM still relevant for me? The landscape was changing and my audience was increasingly engaging online. 5FM management was talking about starting the breakfast show an hour earlier and that didn’t appeal to me at all. Every year they threw out suggestions to see what would stick, and invariably I didn’t agree with them.”
About that suspension
Besides the “stifling” environment, it was a colleague’s suspension that got to him.
“Another thing that irked me was, a couple of months previously, Thabo Modisane’s getting suspended for a week for inadvertently not bleeping out the f-word in an audio clip of the Christian Bale rant that went viral. I was furious, not only with management but also with the fact that one complainant – who shouldn’t be listening to my show in the first place if they are so sensitive – had been given so much power that the show and the listeners were punished for a week by suspending the executive producer.”
Confessions of a Shock Jock by Gareth Cliff will be available in bookshops and online from December 1. It is published by Jonathan Ball and retails for R250.