Dr Zaki Nussaibeh
New York - Arab Today
As the UN marked World Radio Day on Thursday, the medium continues to grow exponentially in the UAE.
"Radio helped bring the world to us,” said Dr Zaki Nussaibeh, former director of the press office of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
In the 1950s, he said, people on the coast could listen to former Egyptian president Jamal Abdul Nasser whenever he made a speech in Cairo, or Umm Qulsum when she sang in the Egyptian capital.
"People had shortwave radios and at that time we were isolated. These radios made the distances disappear,” he said.
The first radio station in the UAE was Edha'at Sawet Al Sahel (the voice of the coast), in Sharjah in 1965.
Dr Arif Al Shaikh said the station was initially established for the British troops.
The transmission only reached Dubai and Sharjah, he said.
Al Shaikh has published 65 books, including ones about the history of radio and TV in the UAE.
"Only a few homes of the rich merchants had radios,” he said "People would all gather at the majlis of these houses to listen to the programmes. The radios were bought from Mumbai, India.
"The radios back then required antennas and their battery was as big as a car's battery,” he said.
Dubai Radio station was the second to be set up.
The first radio station in Abu Dhabi was inaugurated in the late ‘60s. Nussaibeh remembers that he prepared the English bulletin and the programmes on Arabic literature for the station.
The first radio presenter in the country, Mohammad Ali Al Khouri, presented the news and the economic segment at Edha'at Sawet Al Sahel. He said he first became a presenter at the age of 23.
He was influenced by a broadcaster who hosted a segment at a well-known radio station Sawt Al Arab (The voice of Arabs).
"He was loved by all Arabs and I aspired to become like him,” Al Khouri said.
Today, the first thing you do as you pull out from your parking spot and head to work is push a button and tune in to your car radio.
The radio is, not surprisingly, a very big medium in the UAE as many residents spend a long time commuting to work in their cars. The radio is an ever-present source of entertainment and information.
"From its humble beginnings (more than 60 years ago), radio is evolving at a fast and positive rate,” said Digby Taylor, business development manager of GN Radio.
"Because of the traffic jams, radio listenership is phenomenally high in the UAE,” he said. People here spend two to three hours listening to the radio as compared to 10 to 15 minutes elsewhere across the globe today.
"People here are very opinionated about their radio stations, whether it is Radio 1, Radio 2, whatever, and are fiercely loyal about their radio station. We find that very encouraging,” said Taylor.
As the radio audience in the UAE continues to grow, regulators are realising there is an exponential growth cross-culturally and cross-languages. Dubai and the other emirates have a huge multicultural population and people speak a host of languages from Hindi, Malayalam, Russian, to French, Tagalog and Urdu and radio stations catering to these audiences have sprung up.
"Radio is a very intimate medium,” said Taylor.
Source: Gulf News