Radio 99 to Change Hands

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK – Popular Radio 99, the country’s oldest privately-owned station, is in the process of being sold to a local media house, New Era has reliably learned. According to Mario Ita, owner of the radio station that was started 16 years ago, the lucrative deal is to be concluded at the end of this month. “Radio 99 has been on the market for sale for the past three years during which time many offers have been made by local and overseas business people. None of the potential buyers could match the fee I wanted then. Now I have found the right buyer, with enough money,” Ita yesterday telephonically confirmed the sale. Democratic Media Holdings (DMH) is allegedly involved in the purchase of the radio station for an undisclosed amount of money that could be in the millions. Speculation in media circles also indicates that American media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, at one stage showed interest in buying the radio station as part of plans to set up a multi-million dollar media giant in the country. The Italian-born Ita, who grew up in Germany and came to Namibia as a retired radio owner, refused to divulge the name of the buyer or the specific sales deal for his radio station situated in the southern business area in the capital. “My partner and I actually started Radio 99 as a hobby shortly after Namibia’s independence after retiring from radio in Germany and Switzerland. However, for the next four years after we started the station it became a full-time job for both of us, building the station,” Ita said. Today Radio 99 broadcasts on frequency 99 almost country-wide with the exception of certain parts of the south such as Keetmanshoop and LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz. “We have eight transmitters in all the major northern regions, the west coast, the east and central Namibia. Naturally everything was not moonshine and roses. We had to work very hard to convince the local business sector to advertise on radio, something basically unheard of at the time we started the radio station in a house where it is still functioning from. Radio during those days was not considered to be an effective advertising tool,” Ita recounted. In his opinion much more needs to be done by Radio 99 to draw in the small business sector as advertisers. “Right from the start the station has catered for the age groups 29 to 49, with a gradual lowering of the age target to 20 where it musically stands today. It is specifically the younger generation that listens to music. Interestingly enough is the fact that a survey conducted in 2003 showed that Radio 99 has more than 85 000 listeners among all age groups. This can be ascribed to the fact that we are catering for young and old,” the radio owner said. The station has four full-time workers and about 16 freelance announcers, some of whom also contribute to some of the many other commercial radio stations that have sprung up over the past 17 years. “After this deal, my wife Marita and I will focus our attention on building a house for our final retirement in the capital,” Ita concluded.