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21 May 2024

Radio is a listener’s silent companion, say RJs, on World Radio Day

By V M Sathish

As the world celebrates World Radio Day today (February 13), radio jockeys (RJs) in the UAE are busy entertaining listeners, handling humanitarian issues or preparing for their next chat shows or music listings.

Some of the busy RJs, who found time to speak to Emirates 24|7, said they are happy that a large number of people including illiterates hear their voice at least once a day.

“I am illiterate and cannot read or write. But I get all the latest news from the radio in my car,” says Mohammed Khan, a cabbie in Dubai.

February 13 has been proclaimed by UNESCO  and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly as World Radio Day to celebrate radio as a medium.  The day also marks an initiative to improve international cooperation between broadcasters and to encourage major networks and community radio to promote access to information and freedom of expression over the airwaves..

The global campaign for the cause of radio is echoed here in Dubai, but some RJs are not aware of it. There are about 44,000 radio stations worldwide and the number of radio stations in the UAE in different languages has been on the rise. Many informal Internet radio stations are also proliferating.
“Even on a car free day, people get into their cars just to listen to their favourite RJs or even to call up a beautiful RJ during her show,” says Rojin Pynamoodu, a regular radio listener, commentator and social worker: “My job as a social worker is made easier by some of the popular RJs in town. Even humble workers living in remote areas listen to the radio. Some of our charity drives like ‘Snehasparsham’ (Touch of Love) to distribute free cancer treatment cards received immense support from RJs like Leo Radhakrishnan.” He said 516 workers from various labour camps were issued cancer treatment cards.
Girish Nair, Head of Station, Radio Me, a Malayalam FM station, said “The airwave revolution in the UAE has reached a new peak. People can listen to radio while driving a car or doing business in a grocery or cafeteria. Compared to the print media, TV or Internet, radio is more easily accessible. FM radios stations are getting tremendous response to their programmes.” 

Girish said Hindi, English and Arabic radio stations make the maximum money from advertising. “Some of our programmes like ‘Talking Point’ touch the life of the common man,” he added.

“However, getting RJs with the right talent has been a big challenge. We are planning to bring some more RJs to work for non-Malayalam  radio,” said Girish, who has worked  for other  radio stations like Asianet and BBC.
“An RJ is a silent companion and friend for many here, especially for those who are living away from their families and dear ones,” said Kris (Krishna Iyer), the head of programming of RadioMe who has worked for Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil and English radio stations here.

“In the 1990s, RJs were not so well-known. But now more people are coming to radio stations to see and know the people behind the voice,” he said.

Having worked for the first Malayalam FM station, Hit 96.7 FM, the Tamil radio station in Dubai Radio Hallo (89.5), City 101.6 and Radio Me, Kris observes that different listeners have different tastes. “While Keralite listeners are more news savvy, the Tamil community wants to just speak to someone and finds solace in interacting with an RJ. We used to get calls from Tamilians living as far as Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia. In the case of Hindi speakers, they want more entertainment, fun and cinema.”

He says RJs do a lot of charity and community work. “When I came here in 1998, there was no Malayalam FM radio station. I was lucky to be part of the first Malayalam FM station Hit 96.7 and now I realise that there is no life without radio here. Whether you are driving or taking rest, radio is a companion.  Radio has started connecting more people,” he added.
For Mithun Ramesh, a Malayalam RJ, there is no time to do anything else other than doing talk shows about acting in movies. He has acted in 16 Malayalam movies including ‘Run Baby Run’ with Mohanlal, or ‘Diamond Necklace.’

 “Radio and RJs have a prominent role in our community life here. My programmes like Radio Active, Excuse Me or Lucky Seven get good response in terms of number of SMS, emails or other feedbacks. Every day, we get hundreds of SMS from our listeners on various shows and we have to spend a lot of time sorting out the SMS and air the best ones only,” Mithun said.
Mithun said listeners are comfortable interacting with him in public places because they are familiar with his sound. “Listeners who may be hesitant to talk to a film star find it easy to interact with me because my voice is familiar to them. They hear me every day and that makes me happy,” he said.

“Film music or news is almost same in all the radio stations, but what make a station different are the RJs and their sound. RJs don’t jump jobs often. I am sticking to Hit 96.7. Except one RJ, no one has left the station,” said Mithun, who started as an ordinary RJ and rose to become deputy head of programmes.

Moideen Koya, one of the first RJs in the UAE and who has set up at least three radio stations, said: “In the Gulf region, radio will always be important as long as it has a large expatriate population. After their long working hours, many expatriates don’t have time to read a newspaper or watch TV. A radio needs only passive participation and that is why radio is the most popular medium here.”

“Earlier, Indian radio stations catered to the lifestyle of low income blue collar workers, their woes and their nostalgia. Now the FM stations are providing a new set of programmes for the middle and upper middle class expatriates,” he added.

World Radio Day

According to UNESCO, 75 per cent of households in the developing world have a radio.

Along with radios, mobile phones are accessible to over 70 per cent of the world’s population. Training via such technology can be particularly beneficial for women who are sometimes unable to attend regular classes.
Listening to a foreign radio station is something that declines when local media become freer and provide what local people most want to hear. According to BBC audience research, the BBC achieved large audiences (20 per cent and more) only where the choice of local services was limited to five or fewer stations. As choice grows, BBC audiences declined.
Weekly SMS alerts sent to the phones of listeners 30 minutes prior to a broadcast can boost radio listenership by up to 20 per cent.
The transmission platform used by radio channels are mostly terrestrial, no matter the level of country’s development. 37 out of 51 countries (73 per cent) have radio channels available through this platform, with percentages reaching 100 per cent in 18 of these countries. (source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS))