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.
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