Reinventing Radio Jordan

11/12/2004

MEDIA | What we need now is a Jordan National Public Radio, argues Ahmad Humeid.

The recent launch of private, English-language radio stations in Jordan, and the eminent launch of yet more such station is radically changing the Jordanian radio landscape. Listeners, whose only English-language FM radio option was Radio Jordan, can now turn their dial to two other stations, Play 99.6 and Mood FM. Even the Arabic language Sawa and Fann FM broadcast English songs. In one word: choice. And soon we’ll have even more of it. Observers foresee heated competition in Jordan’s radio market.

Where does this leave Radio Jordan’s English service? Should it be competing with the commercially driven private radio stations on the same terms? Can it?

The new stations are entrepreneurial ventures. Their primary focus is pop music. Although in their infancy, their presentation and production are already slick and their marketing techniques aggressive. While Mood FM is an oldies station catering for a mature generation, Play 99.6 is unashamedly hit driven. Good old Radio Jordan will not be able to outdo these ventures in the pop music game.

The solution: Radio Jordan should get out of the pop market and re-invent itself.

As a publicly funded station it should shift it’s focus away from commercial entertainment and find a new role for itself. Such a role is not hard to define. Ironically, looking back might be the way forward for the station.

I started listening to Radio Jordan in the mid 80′s. As a teenager I was interested in listening to the latest chart music (I used to hate it when 70′s and 60′s oldies were played). But Radio Jordan had much more to offer those days. For example, it used to feature quite a lot of classical music, a jazz hour (presented by a really knowledgeable jazz fan who’s name I can’t recall). There even was a country music program every week!

Besides that, there were science and technology programs and some radio comedies.

As the years passed on, Radio Jordan became more and more pop oriented. Then, more recently, it started mixing in Arabic music. Today, the station seems to be directionless.

If Radio Jordan redefines its mission as a provider of information, culture and education, and leaves the business of hit music to the private sector, it will be doing Jordan a great service.

Radio Jordan was once a window for Jordanians to western culture, including that of pop music. Now, with satellite TV, the internet and numerous English-language magazines, not to mention private radio stations, Radio Jordan should become a force that supports art and culture, introduces people to diverse genres of music (including more experimental pop music), improve the English language skills of Jordanians (the BBC’s Arabic service still play that role), expand its local new coverage and broadcasts interesting radio documentaries (on history, science, art, education, health and business).

If the commercial radio stations in Jordan emulate successful commercial radio stations in the west, it would be a good idea for Radio Jordan to model itself after the likes of the National Public Radio in the US. And if commercial radio is after the well-to-do elite of Amman, a government funded Radio Jordan should really be serving all of Jordan’s citizens, both in Amman but also in far-flung villages.

If Radio Jordan is courageous enough to swiftly and radically change itself, it would provide Jordanians with an interesting listening choice that palys a real role in the development of the country. If, on the other hand, it chooses to play the hit music game, it will only stand to loose.

13 Comments

  1. Well, indeed we all have memories with the 96.3, and it is hard to see that we hardly open to it these days.
    When it comes to music, there is a very noticeable difference in the Sound quality between Radio Jordan English Service, and new music channels, it causes the sound from Radio Jordan to be more mono, and less rich.
    As for the content, no doubt that Radio Jordan English have/had some of the best DJs and presenters, but the DJs and presenters in th new channels are no less than them, if not sometimes better.
    Making Radio Jordan in NPR style will be a great loss, but at the same time will bring something new. In the short time of hearing NPR daily while I was in Khobar, KSA (yes, NPR is in FM there) I found it to be really educating and entertaining at a certain level. Having a channel like this in Jordan will add great value.

  2. nasimjo says:

    Jordan FM wont be an NPR …..
    its passing thru a changing negative period (im telling U as a related person to this radio station) … its really like a Curse or a Dark Spell upon the station that we hope to vanish soon (we’re trying to play more Gothic Music helping to kick this spell away :P )

    remember that Jordan FM is still the only station that Plays Rock Music in jordan , if not the entire Middle East …
    & dont 4get that the beggest variaty of music is found on Jordan FM.

    about the transmition , there R some problems on the wave of 96.3 FM since mid october actually , originally 96.3 FMs transmition is a 4-match stereo transmition (the only in Jordan & middle east) & it’s so since 2001.. the 4-match Stereo Transmition was added also on the strong northern wave of 90.9 FM after it was a normal Stereo transmition before
    (I.E : 4-match stereo Means that 4 different sounds come out from each speaker of Ur systems 4 speakers instead of 2 different sounds in the normal stereo case)
    thus,this transmition problem caused the wave of 96.3 FM to be a normal stereo transmition recently,& with a weaker sound loudness aparently … I told U its a dark spell upon it… But we still have a very Fine & Strong FM transmition thru 90.9 reaching all the way to Cyprus by the way & serving the entire northen Jordanian Area, as well as southern Lebanon & Syria.

    about HITs , Jordan FM still gets the latest HITs from the world charts before anybody else in town , but (Again with this dark spell) those Hits R not played that much on air becoz of the DJs lack.
    there R even 2 cases held on Play FM,that they hv recorded new songs from Jordan FM’s Airwaves & playing them back on their airwaves (LPJZ’s – numb/encore & Gwen Stefani’s Latest single).

    JORDAN FM will be back …… Soon ! better than even… trust me!

  3. nasimjo says:

    Back to you Mr Humeid:about the coverage,Jordan FM covers about 4 millions of Jordan’s Population throughout its 3 FM frequencies,just mentioned 90.9s Blasting coverage above,which is another issue that the management should take into consideration in away or another..not forgetting that it reach outside jordan not only thru FM but also thru its SW freq to western EU,making it a window for others to Jordan.

    all what I can say’s that Jordan FM WILL BE BACK SOON…& I assure YOU it can compete with those commercial stations taking the role of an entertainer & a NPR at the same time even!

    keeping my fingers crossed :P

  4. Humeid says:

    I REALLY hope that Radio Jordan comes out of its current state. For better or for worse I grew up with this station!. Wether it can be BOTH an NPR-like station AND an entertainer is doubtful. I guess that specialization wins. It’s like putting fast food and gourmet dinners in one restaurant (or a video game arcade in the lobby of a five star hotel :) . Radio Jordan is a public station and should serve the biggest portion possible of the public. I don’t mind them playing some pop/rock/etc in the future but they should define a unique role for themselves. Currently it’s just a mish mash of stuff. Check out BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Music.. There you’ll see amazing specialization.
    In any case the need a total revamp of their presentation style too (although this is not the main issue).
    Best of luck to them.

  5. Ali kayyali says:

    hi i think radio jordan was the best and it still the famous, i luv it
    Ali from liverpool-mersyside, united kingdoom

  6. kareem says:

    good luck!

  7. Reem says:

    I think that play was the best thing that ever happened to Jordan!
    Good music, good DJs and it has its own style.

    Radio Jordan lacks innovation, and it doesn’t have an identity. It should concentrate on one thing and develop it along with its image. I mean what i don’t get is that they play Arabic, Greek, Turkish, English, French songs. They have no identity they should concentrate on one thing.

  8. firas.k says:

    hi, i don’t really listen so much to radio stations, i’d rather prefer sitting in front of my computer. couple of months age, i once turned on the radio on 96.3 FM & that changed the way i spend my time that period. i like listening to songs, but much more i like listening to discussions with callers. anyway, i hope to be much better in future.

  9. Emad Kawar says:

    Dear, is there an approval to have a private FM radio station in Jordan?
    pls advise
    thank you

  10. Tommy says:

    Great radio =)
    I finded by accident from my Worldradio when i was takeing some sun ;)

    btw im from sweden if you guys wanna know that =D

  11. [...] Quite a lot of revolutionary changes went around lately in Radio Jordan Broadcasting Corp’s radio stations, after the major managerial changes going around there.The Revolution, if i may call it, started ever since last November 2007, and apparently, is still going on, as i wanted to discuss it after seeing more of a complete step, but apparently, things are going kind of slow around there.One of the 1st steps around was deactivating the French service of Radio Jordan, which was known as RFJ (Radio Francofon de Jordanie) and used to broadcast on 90.0 FM in the Amman Greater Area.As i mentioned in one of my posts earlier, and as many people with whom i discussed know my opinion regarding it, RFJ was one of the hyper and famous radio stations in Jordan once upon a time, either for their classical music collection, or for their French shows and music collections, which were hybrid-ly mixed with Ray Music and western hit music. But ever since some years back from now, it was playing arabic music all the time, and ones with pretty bad quality even!!! the station was absolutely theme-less, the shows had the same bunch of listeners and callers all the time, requesting the same music day by day. Maybe someone who would have lived in europe or the states would think this is a pirate radio station for some guys messing out on a Neighborhood radio! And not a state-owned public radio! The only time when French was used on its airwaves was during the news!So, what changed now, is that the station was deactivated, and merged into Radio Jordan’s English Service (Which is the international service arm of Radio Jordan Broadcasting, since it broadcasts for Western Europe on the shortwave SW signal). The result was having French programs broadcasted between the hours of 3-6 PM Jordan local time through the airwaves or Radio Jordan 96.3 FM.This merge was a good step, and one that concentrated the French programs and music within this French period on Radio Jordan’s “Foreign Service” as it should be called know (but it isn’t actually! They are still called RFJ during the French period, and Radio Jordan English Service, or Radio Jordan 96.3 FM during the rest of the programs). The timing was also good in away or another, since Radio Jordan broadcasts on SW 11,690 for western Europe daily between the hours of 17-19:30 JLT (Jordan Local Time), taking into consideration that French is spread in most of western Europe.This timing also had a bad effect among some famous high rated shows from Radio Jordan English Service, such as LC-Listener’s Choice’s Sunday edition, which was for 2nd half of last year, in my opinion, the only remaining decent show on Radio Jordan 96.3 FM to listen to!! and which was down graded because of the introduction of French programs in these hours to only the 3 hours Friday show. Recently, only about 3 weeks ago, the show got back on Sunday evening on a late edition 8-11 PM show. Which was a step in the right direction benefiting of the fact that no concurrent shows are available at that time from private radio stations, But, was a lost for a bunch of international listeners who used to listen to a Jordanian LC through their shortwave receiving instruments on their peaceful Sunday afternoon.One interesting notice about how late the movement was made, is that the deactivation of the French service was made in November, but was actually applied once upon a night during the 1st week of December, 2007! and shows’ times reprogramming on RJ 96.3 FM are appearing in January!Meanwhile, 90.0 FM was NOT turned off! Instead, Radio Jordan Broadcasting’s Main Arabic Service is now on 90.0 FM in Amman Greater Area, instead of 88.0 FM! On which Amman FM is now broadcasting side by side with 99.0 FM in the Amman Greater Area! Quite confusing!So things were like this:Amman FM on 99.0 FM in Amman Greater AreaRadio Jordan Broadcasting – Main Service on 88.0 FM in Amman Greater Area .. and this was ever since … ever!While now, after those changes we have it like this:Amman FM on 99.0 FM + 88.0 FM in Amman Greater AreaRadio Jordan Broadcasting – Main Service on 90.0 FM + 106.7 FM in Amman Greater Area.Yes, Radio Jordan Broadcasting – Main Service is on 106.7 FM after MBC Group withdrew its Panorama FM Amman from Jordan.Now i cannot really understand why on earth they are broadcasting the exact same station on 2 frequencies! That is, when the antennas broadcasting on both frequencies, for each case of the mentioned above, are located beside each other, and cover almost the same areas! (unlike Fann FM for example which has 2 frequencies in Amman, one for its eastern parts and for its western parts. Now this is what I would like to call a waste of money, and a lot of waste of money even!!! Public Money!!Beside, Radio Jordan Broadcasting – Main Service used to broadcast on 88.0 FM ever since Radio Jordan started broadcasting on the FM dial, as this was the 1st ever frequency to be broadcasting from Jordan on the FM dial, ever! What was the reason behind changing the frequency just like that! Without a reason, without even announcing it in the media, and maybe not even on the air but after changing the frequency!Anyway, continuing with the list of changes, there were quite a good bunch of improvements in Radio Jordan Broadcasting – Main Service’s programs. Actually, there have been quite a chain of improvements and changes during the last 3 years or so in the Main Service’s programs and behavior, making it more of a state-radio as it should be. The new bunches of programs continued the previous wave of improvements by concentrating the public radio mission, with a drop in the level of listener’s boredom & bureaucratic style shows and conversations, and some entertainment programs improvements as well. Those changes in the programs as well as in the voices had a bunch of good reviews in the media as well.Getting back to Radio Jordan 96.3 FM, the English service faced quite a lot of improvements lately after the big drop of listeners ratings during the last months of 2007, especially after the Wednesday rock show was stopped, and after Dj Mike Derderian left the station, and with him left thousands of dedicated listeners to his almost daily shows. As well as the down grading of hours in the only lasting highly-rated radio show, LC-Listener’s choice. All of this associated with the continuity of theme-less-ity in the station’s music genres and shows, as well as the a lot of arabic music airplay and pirated-radio like shows where only the radio announcer and his bunch of family and friends are listening and interacting on the air!And not to forget, the miserable and noisy sound quality with which the radio was broadcasting on the airwaves.So, improvements started to happen notably ever since the beginning of this year, things got more arranged regarding the shows on RJ 96.3 FM, some tiny little useful shows started to appear on the airwaves as well, turning the station into more of a public radio service. Very notable was the massive reduction in arabic music as well (though you can have ones popping up each and every now and then, but they’re a lot less during the last week or so according to my observations), and the shows of “DJs and their families” aren’t so any more. Also, some old names are back on the airwaves, just like Cynthia latrash (and who doesn’t know that voice, upon which we group up on the airwaves of Radio Jordan English Service). The sound quality was also improved, and it aint noisy any more, but its still not as it once was before.So, the conclusion is that, things are moving in the right way, especially on the “Foreign Service” of Radio Jordan, which was alot of a mess-up lately. But very slowly… things the can be done within a week are being done within months, and some waste in resources is obvious in the case of 2 frequencies for the Main Arabic service and Amman FM.Some would definitely be happy now with having Radio Jordan 96.3 FM more of a public radio, isn’t it Ahmad :) Labels: bad, broadcasting, corp, good, Jordan, Radio, revolution [...]

  12. ULLMAR QVICK says:

    Dear Ahmad:
    Although your text about Radio Amman 96.3 is rather old, I found it most interesting when I “discovered” your website. I am an old world radio listener, age 74, in Sweden. Foreign cultures have always interested me and I have indeed been travelling much more with my radio than by airplane to learn about other countries.

    In the past it was possible to hear Radio Jordan in English on short waves, but this belongs to the past. Especially during the month of Ramadan there were interesting programmes, interesting also for foreign listeners, believers and non-believers. What I hear now is the kind of music I can very easily listen to by means of media much nearer me.

    The decline of broadcasting in the Arab world is a sad fact, at least when we talk about transmissions directed to the outside world. It is not easy to find radio stations in English from the Middle East with something of interest to us in this part of the world. Morocco had nice English programmes in the past, and my correspondence with the radio in Rabat gave me loads of penfriends, young students who were keen on learning more English and it was all in all a pleasant correspondence more than 20 years ago. Algeria also had Engish on short waves, they are gone as well. Libya is kind of a maverick, but Egypt is more interesting. When the audio and propagation are OK I can hear some interesting topics on 6255 kHz in the evenings. Kuwait is also doing some efforts, but their choice of frequency is not favouring reception in northern Europe during the evening. Radio Dubai used to have transmissions on Arab culture and history in the past, for English speaking listeners, but they have left the air on shortwaves…. Saudi Arabia can be heard on the internet in English, but it has become tricky to get access. Well, this about covers the general situation. There is some English also from Oman and Yemen, but it is a rare event to catch them! I have their confirmation of listening, though.

    What I mean is this: We can always find the Western points of view, our media cover all aspects of our culture here, but we have to be keen, persistent and imaginative to get in touch with Arab culture through the ether media!

    You personally are the very opposite of the “Islamist with a knife between his lips, a gun at his belt, who wants to massacre the poor Europeans and Americans!” Although most people here don’t nourish such shablons, still the fact that the majority of Arabs have quite modern attitudes towards most aspects of life is not known by a majority in my country and other European states…. I am many others here would like to see a more determined effort to show the reality of the Arab world of today, and especially the moderate, peaceful and intelligent people in your countries should be seen and heard much much better!

    This will be all, but any comments are welcome.
    Kind regards,
    Ullmar Qvick

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