The Grade 7 class from the Transoranje School for the deaf, along with Tuks FM volunteers.

Tuks FM has done it again! The campus radio station has broken all the conventions of radio broadcasting by hosting a 30-minute radio show for deaf learners.

‘See the Sounds’ was hosted on Wednesday, 13 September from 15:00 – 16:00 at the Javett Art Centre on the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield Campus. The community outreach project saw a 30-minute radio show being brought to life for the Grade 7 class of the Transoranje school for the deaf.

I sense your disbelief. A radio show for people who can’t hear?! That’s impossible! Here’s how we did it: a team of Tuks FM volunteers, including presenters, technical, production and social media members, all played a part in bringing the show to life. The presenters, along with interpretive dancers, acted out a radio show with emphasis on the visual, touch, taste and smell senses. Kilowatt Productions provided screens for the visual elements, as well as several bass bins that were placed under a wooden stage on which the learners were seated. These generated vibrations when songs were played or when presenters were broadcasting. A Sign Language interpreter was also on site to interpret the verbal aspects of the radio show.

The 30-minute show featured two presenters, a traffic reader, and news and sports presenters who acted out a portion of the show they would normally present verbally on air. Several big screens provided visual stimulation in the form of music videos which accompanied the song playing on air, as well as visual feeds of real-time news and sports bulletin preparation, and Whatsapps and voice notes coming in from listeners. The smell and taste elements were handled as content pieces during the show.

In the first on air link, the presenters discussed an incident during which one of them experienced a foul smell during a visit to a shopping centre, and how to politely mask the aroma. The room then filled with a sweet perfume while the presenters and dancers acted out the scene. For the taste element, the presenters chatted about whether the food we eat says anything about the type of people we are. So, if you prefer sushi over fried chicken, for instance, does that mean you’re subconsciously more bourgeoisie? They then hosted an online poll asking listeners to vote for their preference with votes showing up on the screens in real-time. As this scene was acted out, the learners were treated to fried chicken and sushi and themselves voted for their favourite.

Below is a cellphone video showing the learners dancing to a song playing on air, the vibrations of which they could feel as a result of the bass bins. The screens showing the music video can be seen in the background:

Tuks FM’s programme manager, Mike Bower, who conceptualised and organised the outreach, said the campaign aimed to refocus radio on the human element. “Radio is by far the most human of all media, and quite often, you forget that broadcasting is about people. See the Sights has focused entirely on changing people’s lives, and I genuinely believe we’ve done that. We were able to share the radio experience with 18 people who have never been exposed to that before and that is the most human thing you can do. I am very happy with the way in which we executed the campaign, and I’m extremely excited about what we can do with it in future.”

See the Sounds was a follow up to Tuks FM’s award-winning community outreach, Hear the Sights, hosted for visually impaired learners at the Pretoria Zoo in 2018.

Hear the Sightsoffered Prinshof learners the opportunity to experience all the sights the zoo has to offer using the spoken word, as well as audio and tactile aids.

Tuks FM won a Radio Innovation award at the 2019 Liberty Radio Awards for that outreach.