MEDIA | Ahmad Humeid goes airwave surfing
It started when I was trying to find an empty frequency on my wife’s car radio. She has an iPod that she would like to listen to in the car, so I got her a little FM transmitter (called the iTrip) that can transmit audio to a car radio.
I thought this would be an easy task. Boy was I wrong. As I scanned the airwaves I discovered that Jordan’s FM radio spectrum has become quite crowded. So instead of concentrating on finding a free frequency for the iPod, I ended up surfing the airwaves and discovering what’s out there. (Eventually I was able to get the iPod playing on the radio but only after extending the iTrip’s antenna which is was concealed by a sticker, but that’s a different story).
The Israeli occupation!
I live in an area of Amman that is exposed towards the west. When the new private radio stations started broadcasting around a year ago, I could hardly receive some of them in my house. My car radio was better, but it too was experiencing a weakness of signal from a certain local music station I sometimes listen to.
But what my airwave surf exposed was that I was able to receive a dozen different Israeli radio stations loud and clear. I could also receive some Palestinian radio stations. In fact, every time I drive up toward the Suweileh area, which is very exposed towards the west, the interference from Radio stations from across the river becomes so powerful that it drowns out the BBC’s Arabic service.
It seems that the Israelis are using excessively powerful transmitters for their multitude of Radio stations. This is doubly annoying. First, there is the problem of interference and secondly is the fact that these Hebrew language stations are totally useless for Jordanian listeners! What the Israelis are gaining from polluting our airwaves is beyond me.
I am no radio policy expert. But it is my presumption that issues like the power of radio signals are regulated by international treaties and policies. Our local radio industry is booming with more than a dozen stations licensed and maybe more to come. The interference coming from across the western border seems to me like a real problem that affects our nascent radio listening industry (have a look at Nasimjo’s radio guide for a radio hobbyist’s list of FM radio stations in Jordan).
Another thing that became very obvious to me during my radio surf was that music stations are swamping the airwaves. Both Arabic and western music stations are dominating the scene. One exception is the newly launched Amman Net Radio (on 92.4 FM, also on ammannet.net), which covers news, local politics, culture, media and sports.
Music oriented station are something delightful to have. But it’s time we, the listeners, are offered a more balanced radio diet. Top 40 and oldies stations are fine. But how about some interesting talk radio for example.
Of the new English language stations, only Play 99.6 has managed to put live Djs on the air, if only in a limited manner. If people only wanted to listen to a playlist of songs they might as well just listen to their own music collections from CDs or an MP3 player.
The music oriented radio market is indeed becoming crowded, without much differentiation between stations. Most of the new stations’ licences actually state that they are not to broadcast news. In time, I hope that these stations will evolve beyond their current formats into something more colourful and sophisticated.
Public Radio please..
The role of Radio Jordan’s English service is not to be forgotten. Currently, Radio Jordan seems to be stuck in a major way. As a government run media channel (read: tax payer supported) it has the opportunity, even the duty, to become more of a public service radio, instead of the shapeless mishmash of music and some news it today broadcasts.
The irony is that Jordan’s radio industry is being born when the global radio industry is busy getting re-born. If only our local radio industry would start seriously looking at the dramatic transformations the global industry is undergoing. Podcasting, for example, is only one year old but is already becoming a significant medium (Yahoo just launched its podcasting site this week). There is a wealth of content out there that Radio Jordan and others could re-broadcast or licence. This will surely make for a much more intelligent, and enlightening listening experience.
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