Saturday, February 4, 2006

On a high with FM radio
It has become a perfect companion for Gen-X. It talks to them, brings them cheer, banishes their blues, updates them on the buzz and, best of all, makes them rock. Tripti Nath in Delhi and Geetanjali Gayatri in Chandigarh look at the soaring popularity of FM radio.

"Radio ... sunne waale always khush." This ad says it all as it shows how a common taste in listening to the radio can take care of the unpleasantness following a collision between two vehicles. While the bonhomie between drivers of the two colliding vehicles may have been exaggerated by the ad maker, the truth is that a large number of people tune in to FM (frequency modulation) radio while driving.

FM radio has become an integral part of the lives of pre-teens, young adults and housewives. The addiction to FM can be gauged by the fact that a large number of youngsters carry cellphones with in-built radio and earplugs that enable them to tune into their favourite programme on any FM station.

Contrary to the popular public perception that listeners tune into FM radio for music, a number of listeners rely on FM radio stations for news, weather forecast, state of traffic and cricket update.

Surendra Phuyal, Bureau Chief of The Kathmandu Post, acknowledges that FM radio has helped him know Delhi better. Phuyal, 30, carries a cellphone with a radio and uses earplugs while biking around in Delhi. "Radio FM has helped me know Delhi better apart from providing entertainment. I follow events on the cultural circuit and keep myself posted on cricket updates, traffic updates and news about traffic diversions."

Parents recognise the indispensable presence of FM Radio in the lives of youngsters. "They wake up in the morning listening to music and go to bed listening to music," said a resident of Delhi who has two young daughters. In fact, music takes care of a lot of stress while driving. It is soul-stirring and soothing and the RJs lift your spirits.

The world of FM radio, by and large, is of the young, for the young and by the young. This is evident in the fact that most of the radio jockeys (RJs) are under 35. A person who wishes to apply for audition as an RJ on All India Radio has to be less than 35. AIR depends on a panel of 55 to 60 RJs who are booked from time to time. No RJ is booked more than six times a month.

FM Radio can also claim as fans serious listeners fond of music.

Gautam Siddharth, Senior Assistant Editor of The Pioneer, says, "It would be better if they focus on the music than on the radio jockeys. The one thing Im struck by is how much they can laugh. Most of the DJs seem to be in love with their own voices. Consequently, the listener gets to hear more of them than some good music."

Anubha, a B.Com II student of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, prefers to listen to FM programmes. "They have got good RJs and good music as well. I like to listen to Khubsoorat hosted daily by Anu at 11 am. It talks of shopping and make-up tips. Life would be boring without the radio. Tuning into FM is the first thing I do when I wake up. I also listen to Dr Love presented by Naved, who has a very good voice. For more serious advise on relationship problems, I would recommend Love Guru on Radio City or formal counselling by Dr Chugh on Khubsoorat," says Anubha.

Sayema, a young RJ, says that a lot of research is required to cull out trivia about the lesser-known interesting aspects of the lives of film stars, lyricists and singers. Sayema is very popular with youngsters for her two-hour programme Purani Jeans broadcast every evening between 9 pm and 11 pm. The programme plays music of the golden era of Bollywood. Sayema says that her job entails a lot of homework. "It is a complete eight-hour job. The producer and the jockey decide the days fabric. "The trivia is the most difficult part."

Dev, who has been jockeying a three-hour show Total Filmi on an FM channel, for the past three years, disagrees with the opinion that FM Radio is heard only by the young. "How can you classify anything for public consumption according to age? If there is a good song on radio, anybody would listen to it."

Dev says he gets calls from the not-so-young men and women at his toll-free RJ line. "They also send me feedback on e-mail. If anybody says that Dev makes us laugh, I think I have achieved something."

Doctor Feelgood, a 29-year-old RJ has been associated with AIR FM for the last six years. He hosts two programmes every Tuesday Matchless Music Hour and Just for You.

Doctor Feelgood says that FM is heard by a large cross-section of people and offers an amazing variety that includes classical, country music, jazz, rock, retro and dance music besides shows based on movie tracks. While Matchless Music Hour plays retro music and Hindi songs, Just for You is for those who have an ear for contemporary music. Both shows are on throughout the week but have a different presenter everyday.

Being a jockey gives you "a kind of a high" as "radio is very addictive," admits Doctor Feelgood.

Radio City, a venture promoted by GW Caps, commands a listenership of 33 lakh in Delhi alone, while Radio Mirchi alone commands a listenership of 41 lakh in Delhi. T.N.