FM Channel: Fighting a war of survival

Saima Zaman


When a new venture has been started it comes out with many perks and several accessories to attract those who are anxious to come across such ventures, but it is not merely the case with those eager people as the main achievement is to grape the attention of those who seems to be least bother about the whole exercise. It’s surely not an easy task when you make other’s mind to go for an option which may be the last one in their priority list or probably there is no such option and in some cases no such priority list either. The whole situation depends upon communication and its use, but what to do when the real cause is to promote a communication source itself? Sometimes one aim is achieved so quickly that it becomes difficult to imagine the worth and significance of that aim. The similar situation occurred when the broadcasting form of media communication was about to initiated. Bertolt Brecht once said Radio could be the most wonderful public communication system imaginable…if it were capable, not only of transmitting, but of receiving — of making the listener not only hear but also speak. But with the passage of time feedback procedure was also introduced through postal and later direct telephonic connection with the listeners for their participation as well. Radio emerged as the most powerful source to capture the attentions of the listeners with so many reasons. Later on FM proved to be an intoxication for so many as one could easily access it anywhere.
FM or frequency modulation was started as a technical aspect of broadcasting to provide high-fidelity sound over broadcast Radio but over the period of time the technical aspect became ceremonial and in due course habitually this term referred as a source to get more and more entertainment, back to back music, fun and gossips by the Radio jockeys or in short RJ’s. Despite of the fact that FM broadcasting having been patented in 1933 but the taste of commercialism was added in the middle of 60’s to get real benefits out of it. Many countries in the world used it in many different ways. In Pakistan radio worked as an agent of change. It was radio that became the source for announcing the emergence of this newly state. According to a survey twenty five years ago, radio audience was twice the television audience in the Country.
Frequency Modulated (FM) radio made its debut in Pakistan in the year 1995, as an emerging cultural form. For the first seven years its access was confined to only three metropolitans, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad under private ownership exclusively granted to only one company. Later on Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation also started FM radio broadcasting under the title of FM101 in October 1998. In the beginning its transmission was also for three cities, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Gradually the number of FM stations started increasing in Pakistan. The emergence of private electronic media regime in the country marked the conditions for change. The inception of FM Radio in the private sector in Pakistan has brought a revolution in the broadcasting sector of the Country. Radio which was previously regarded as a neglected medium has regained its listener ship to a great extent. That particular period said to be the peak for FM transmission. The term Community also got immense fame in radio though commercial and public broadcasting were already proceeding for a broader aspect. Historical philosophy of community radio is to use this medium as the voice of the voiceless, the mouthpiece of oppressed and generally as a tool for development. Community radio is defined as having three aspects, non-profit making, community ownership and control, and community participation. It is also an important element that community radio is not about doing something for the community but about the community doing something for itself and this could only be possible through their participation. It collectively proved to be a great charismatic phenomenon in the history of FM radio. Almost all FM radio channels adopted this formula across the world including Pakistan and got immense appreciation and extol. By the end of last century radio broadcasting started declining throughout the globe. Overshadowed by the other media and also in the presence of new communication technologies. FM radio also suffered because of this over all change in the world of media. Many commercial aspects, interests and trends are included in this race. The attractive and the most important, community trend is demolishing day by day. If we find some glimpse of that it may also be under cover of any interest or merely in documentation. Why this decline happened? It’s not that much a difficult question to solve. In the presence of so many sources of entertainment and communication especially social media the influence of FM radio decreased to a certain extent. There was a time when people were anxious to listen to their favorite RJ but it became worthless hearing exercise for many people except few. Now people don’t have time to listen futile and pointless talks by a group of people. In such an environment the revival of FM radio seems to be an uphill task but still there are few measures by using of which some new dimensions could be found. It’s necessary to promote community FM radio where ever the need of such stuff is essential. No doubt entertainment is a very important part of life and even commercialism can’t be present as a segregated element from this mean of communication but all the elements should go parallel so that they as a whole become progressive as well as beneficial. Obviously the economical factor can’t be neglected also in case of community radio as it’s a nonprofit making form of radio transmission and need finances like others. To address this issue it is also applicable to form alliances with local health providers and educational institutions, as well as with local businesses. These initiatives can really support the activities of the radio both financially and through the provision of information and resources. It’s also a pivot fact that Radio today has so much competition from other types of media that it’s decreasing in importance. This situation presents challenges to broadcasters and to regulators. There is evidence that the changes in listening habits, together with emerging new technologies have had a more rapid and profound impact on the radio industry than was foreseen just a few years ago when the existing situation was put in place. For established radio broadcasters this explosion of choice brings new challenges through increased competition for listeners and revenues. Broadcasters also face increased costs from having to invest in new platforms and must deal with increased competition from an ever wider range of media. All of these changes create significant pressures on the traditional pattern of local radio, which has emerged as a result of adopting deliberate public policy. Apart from the fact that today we do have radio in cars and on mobile sets but still something is lacking. Infact there is need to take few initiatives other than the existing setup. A person who is speaking to the world using air time has to take full advantage out of these precious minutes. Along with the entertainment more and more public problems and evils that cutting the roots of a society should be addressed and this can be done only through strong programming and content development. Introduce new trends with combination of some classical old patterns as it has become a worldly phenomenon in many other fields and professions as well. Don’t compromise on quality of the content along with the vocal and intellectual eminence of those who are speaking to the world, the RJs. We can’t forget some of the great productions on aired by Radio Pakistan including dramas and programs of different genres. The revival of such stuff perhaps difficult but it will prove to be the revival of FM radio as a new and true agent of change with diversity and more proficiency.

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