After 30 years in talk radio, John Robbie hangs up his earphones

John Robbie's last day on air was a fitting tribute to his illustrious radio career.

Messages wishing the broadcaster well poured in from celebrities, politicians, loyal listeners and personalities who have made their own name in radio thanks to his mentorship. Callers included radio veterans Tim Modise, DJ Fresh and Jenny Crwys-Williams.

His producers compiled a list of phrases he's used regularly over the years that have endeared him to listeners over his 30-year career in broadcasting. John started off his radio journey in 1986 when the country was in turmoil. He wasn't very popular among some circles who resented his vision for free speech and inclusivity at the height of Apartheid. John regularly received hate mail and death threats.

He persevered and steered the country through those tumultuous years.

Here's a look back at how he won the hearts of listeners and those who were lucky enough to work with him...

Keep it short and sharp!

Please call me John.

Just play it straight Aki.

You lie like a cheap carpet.

What day is it tomorrow? Oh yes! It’s Friday!

Khaliques … tell em' I sent you!

Regular listeners will recall how, for years John used the phrase TGIF… recently that changed to “Thank Guptas it’s Friday”...

Alastair Teeling-Smith, 702 Programme Manager, who has shared John's journey having worked with him in different capacities, called this time a "privilege" adding how the then Talk at Nine really got the country talking.

The country very different then, basically the country was at war… a civil war. The country was at a crossroad. The choices were you either intensify the civil war, the Syrian option, or buy-in to the promise of a rainbow nation. You took to the airwaves during these terrifying but heady times.

Alastair Teeling-Smith, 702 Programme Manager

Teeling-Smith told how John pioneered 702' style of talk radio through opening minds, holding those in power to account, giving a voice to the voiceless, and most importantly following up on listeners problems and solving them with the help of various producers over the three decades.

Those early days not always easy… the NP and the right wing hated you, saw you as a communist… bomb threats, death threats… police Casspirs parked outside your house. Shadowy death squads… Paul Erasmus… Eugene de Kok. Of course the ANC loved you…

Alastair Teeling-Smith, 702 Programme Manager

Teeling-Smith recalled how in the 2000's, 702 was losing money and the board wanted to close the station. Terry Volkwyn, Primedia Broadcasting CEO, persuaded the board to let her take over 702. Her first priority was putting John on the breakfast show and the rest is history.

John should take much of the credit for saving 702 the radio stations. It’s a well-known adage that a radio station lives or dies on the basis of its breakfast show.

You’ve grown the audience increasing revenue by many more multiples. And of course we all know the role that John and 702 has played in the community… we hear it on the show each day…

Alastair Teeling-Smith, 702 Programme Manager

John's departure coincides with that of John's longtime colleague Primedia Broadcasting CEO, Terry Volkwyn...

Without you John and Terry’s leadership, many of us would not be here and there may very well have been no 702 today.

Alastair Teeling-Smith, 702 Programme Manager

The thing I will miss most about you John - are the jokes. The Irish jokes, the Greek jokes and best of old - the old jokes.

Darius Mothibe, radio producer

When introducing the ‘What’s the question’ competition, trying to work up the on air excitement for the prize...

Ta-daah!


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