the radio returns…
Rewind the clock by three months or so. Now try and think of the last time you spent a ride in the car or morning coffee or for that matter a quiet evening listening to the radio. Yes that's right - listening to the radio. Stumped aren't you? And for good reason too.
Technology has forever been on an upward trend and has threatened to carry us away on the crest of a wave. And radio had been consigned like so many other things to the distant past. You have TV, you have internet, you have your mobile phone. Who needs a radio?
'Video killed the radio star' ran a popular theme of the 1990's. So as things go like everyone else you were just ready to jump on the tech bandwagon and thereby pick up your old two-in-ones and chuck them in the trash, right?
Wrong. Because like it or not, Radio is making its very own comeback right here into the heart of Dhaka city.
But before we go any further it should be known that this is quite a novel concept, the comeback of radio that is. For as much as the world has sped up around us, people around the world have managed to keep in touch with the radio. Go anywhere in the First World and Radio is still a big part of their lives. But with Bangladesh the radio petered out during the 90's to the point of non existence.
Or so we thought, until Radio Today and Radio Foorti came on to the scene.
Personally speaking the last time I vividly remember listening to the radio was as a bright eyed kid, ears glued to the transistor while Jafarullah Sharafat relayed details as Bangladesh slugged it out with Kenya in the final of the ICC Trophy in 1997. I remember too the elation as Mohd. Rafique and Akram Khan managed to pull off what then was our best ever achievement. But while cricket moved steadily upward since those early days, radio took a down turn.
But its time has come again.
And credit for that should go to the two new channels on the block Radio Today and Radio Foorti.
If any proof was required of the popularity of these stations one just needs to examine the growing number of youths and adults, who are glued to these stations through their radios, mobile phones, mp3players and car audio-systems.
So what about these stations have attracted such a growing number of people?
“They play good music,” says Samai Haider, a young graduate of North South University. But while that is an integral reason she admits that is not solely what attracts her to the two new channels.
“The RJ's are pretty cool too and the whole thing has about it a chic feel that would endear it to the local youth, mostly the school and university goers.”
But young is not to be taken literally. Foorti and Today both have their share of young at heart followers and many of them are well into their adulthood. Senior citizen Abdul Malek recalls the Bangladesh Betar from days of yore but he says that Today and Foorti with their new music catches him in just the right way.
“These channels have about them a different feel. They are not like the transmissions that I used to listen to long ago but they are nice in their own unique way.”
And he is testament to the fact that there is more than music to Foorti and Today.
“I like the news updates that they have from time to time. Also interesting are new segments like DhakarChaka which reports live to tell you about the traffic situation in and around the city. Things like that can be very useful for commuters as you know in advance where heavy traffic may be and make plans accordingly.”
Infortainment, as the powers that be are calling it, is the new trend. Before you juggle your brain and then your dictionary into finding out what the term means let us explain. Information plus entertainment equals infortainment. And that is essentially the plan for Radio Today - Providing information and entertainment simultaneously.
“It will embody exclusive talk shows, live interactive shows, traffic news, interviews, music, weather news, daily life tips, career tips, educational programmes, counselling, fashion and beauty tips and ofcourse songs into one channel,” says Executive Director of Radio Today Shakil Monzur.
After beginning transmission from September 16th from its studio in Banani, Radio Today has within a very short span of time carved a niche into the hearts of young adults and the young at heart. Early signs would suggest that it is here to stay especially with constant innovations such as interactions with fans which might in the long run prove to be the most crucial factor in its sustenance.
Other innovative skits of Radio Today include broadcasting prices of essentials via on the spot reporters so people who are on way to shop can know the going rate at the market today. Ahmed Jalil feels that this is an invaluable help. “I realised this quite by accident and found out that they report on the price of groceries, essentials and food items. And since they are doing it on the spot there is very little chance of it to change.”
Shakil voices exactly this opinion and says how helpful these news items can be. “Its' important to provide these basic facilities as it will be a great help for the normal people. The reach of radio is far wider than that of TV and since its active entertainment it can also impact audiences more.”
But if Radio Today is catering more to conventional news, Foorti is having its share of fun.
Launched on September 21, Radio Foorti too has its share of fan following although most of these fans are slightly different. Foorti is different in that it caters to a style of music that the young people would mostly identify with. And rightly so. A lot of the people involved in Radio Foorti are members of local bands and hence their taste in music mirrors those of the school and university students. So their market is exclusively popular in this segment.
For the members of Foorti, its about having fun (foorti) and that's what they are doing.
But be it Foorti or Today, both channels have paved the way for radio to make its comeback into the lives of the people of Dhaka.
“We have made an encouraging start, “ says Shakil. “ And we can understand that by the fact that the very people who once jeered at me for planning a radio station are now coming to thank us for starting one.” He also relates a tale of how RAB personnel stopped their Radio Today van thrice during the political turmoil but only to congratulate them on doing a good job!!
Although both stations are still taking infant steps, its' encouraging to see how they have already captured the imagination. Marconi has struck back.
Radio is on the comeback trail…
By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam
Photo: Amirul Rajiv