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Tune in for elections

April 28, 2013

Various Frequency Modulation (FM) radio stations have developed their own styles of keeping the listeners engaged while following a set of policies when it comes to the city and Pakistan’s upcoming general elections.

Radio Pakistan has two FM stations — FM 93 and FM 101. Some programmes are aired all over Pakistan from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad while others are developed for Karachi or Sindh, specifically.

“Our listeners comprise senior citizens, office-goers, factory workers, labourers, housewives, youth, students and children so the programmes designed have to cater to all of them. But for the upcoming elections, we started planning our programming exactly five minutes after the Election Commission of Pakistan announced the election date,” says Sanaullah Abro, programme producer at Radio Pakistan.

“We have programmes that review ECP policies and the work of the caretaker government regarding the elections. The programmes aired from Karachi also represent the entire province of Sindh, for our Hyderabad, Bhit Shah, Mithi and Larkana listeners, too. We are also highlighting the importance of elections, how to vote and what to expect at polling stations in other provincial languages on a daily basis,” he says.

“Then we have started a special programme named ‘Hamara Manshoor’. The one-hour-long show aired from 11am to 12noon everyday, other than Saturdays and Sundays, which is also repeated at 11pm, discusses party manifestos. Listeners can also phone in live and ask questions like our 10 to 15 journalists’ panel asks the guest representing his or her party on the programme. It has raised much awareness about the various parties and what they stand for,” Mr Abro explains.

Meanwhile, he also explains Radio Pakistan’s stand about playing of songs. “Since it is ‘Radio Pakistan’ it doesn’t play Indian songs like the other FM stations do though we will play pre-Partition songs by singers who have their roots here,” he clarifies.

Programme Manager, country head of programming and popular Radio Jockey (RJ) of some seven shows a week at FM 103, Leena Shah, also hosts ‘Siyasi Adakaar’, the only political mimicry and satire programme being aired live in Pakistan, with Basit Faryad. “It’s aired on Mondays and Tuesdays from 3pm to 4pm,” she shares.

“And Mr Faryad, an extremely talented mimicker, copies voices of just about anybody. He also switches voices during a conversation with listeners who call during the show. One second he is Sheikh Rashid and another Imran Khan. Speaking with an assumed Raja Rental if you bring up General Musharraf, he will switch to Musharraf instantly to answer on behalf of the former president,” she says.

Ms Shah says: “But whatever we do on the show, we are completely unbiased. We go through the newspapers and watch the news on TV also in order to do our research for the programme. The last message is always for the listeners to understand their role in the elections. We always end by urging them to cast their vote in a very friendly manner that doesn’t really talk down to people.”

At City FM 89, RJ of Cloud 89, Qudsia Bhatti, throws some light on how they keep their listeners engaged while trying to stay away from political subjects. “Well, us RJs are usually discouraged from discussing politics or religion as both being personal things can evoke arguments and even heated debates,” she explains.

“I remember the first programme I used to do at FM 89 was a discussion and call-in programme called ‘Dial 89’. It was an evening show when people are usually driving home from work, taking a walk in the park or just chilling out in general. So politics wasn’t a very desirable thing to talk about, which is why we stuck to light things to help take people’s minds off things and give them a break from [harsh] reality,” she says.

“So FM 89 basically gives its listeners an outlet by playing their requests, too, and by listening to clean, nice and fun music. Over the past two to three years when text service has been introduced at FM radios, phone calls have dropped to an extent,” she adds.

“Aside from all this, if there is one show that does discuss politics, it has got to be ‘Cloud 89’. The show aired nationwide has its own huge listenership allowing it to get away with discussing serious issues like politics. We play diverse and interesting music that many may not even have heard. Besides that we also have interviews with all kinds of well-known personalities and politicians on the show,” she shares.

“Ours is an infotainment radio station network. For entertainment, we have classical and non-classical music and for information we have 17 five-minute news bulletins composed of local news, national news and international news from 7am to midnight. The bulletins also include political situation,” says FM 105 CEO Zulfiqar Ali Shah.

“As for the elections,” he continues, “well, we have an hour-long duration programme ‘Election Roundup’ that’s aired everyday at 3pm. It’s a live show that goes on our 15-station network across Pakistan, including Quetta and Chitral.

“The programme provides information about various constituencies and their candidates. The candidates are taken live on air and the basic message is for the people to not refrain from their right to vote. Also, we have public-service messages for listeners such as not choosing your leader and staying silent during polling is equivalent to a crime,” he says.

Meanwhile, FM 107 has concentrated strictly on Karachi. Producer News and Current Affairs and RJ Waqar ul Hassan speaks about their various teasers, segments and programmes: “For four times in one hour we have these teasers called ‘Karachi Kehta Hai’ where any citizen from any of the constituencies in Karachi tells you what he or she expects from the upcoming elections.”

The producer says that the station has a dedicated staff running around the city to record these messages. Then they also have ‘Election Nama’ at 9.30pm each day with a five to eight-minute segment giving you that day’s election-related news while also discussing the manifesto of any party. ‘Karachi ki Awaz’ at 8pm also has a specific news segment called ‘Election 2013’, he says while going on to talk about their well-researched show, ‘Karachi kay Intikhabi Halke’.

“The programme also takes into account the 2008 general elections and who won from which constituency then, who was the runner-up and who is competing from there now. We also educate our listeners about all the National Assembly constituencies of Karachi and the issues being faced by the people there,” he explains.