| 29 Feb 2024
IRF - celebration of radio globally

Zurich....... the very name brings to mind beauty….beautiful place, beautiful people. And suddenly that word ‘Beauty’ becomes a cliché. Everything in Zurich is beautiful and this fact has been endorsed by all my co-participants at the International Radio Festival 2012 (IRF) that was held in the city between September 12 and 16 this year at the Schloss Sihlberg.

The event encompassed three days of what I thought was important to me - business to business sessions that had keynotes and presentations and panel discussions on various aspects of the radio business. The other part that I’d not give much thought to before I witnessed was the pain, the emotions, the effort that the actual people who present the show had taken for our listening pleasure, to really make it our listening pleasure.

All of us, as listeners, be it from any part of the world are so used to  radio in the car or on the mobile phone or any other type of receiver that we scarcely realize, care to think of and understand what the presenter does, the producer or the programmer or the music director at a radio station does to make the most interesting music even more likable to all the captive listeners… and believe me satisfying and keeping engaged audiences of 100,000 in the west, or 3,000,0000 as is the case with our own Indian radio diva Malishka is no easy task.

Music consumption tastes, moods, vary at different times, and the presenters’ (take your pick, call them radio jocks, RJs’, or disk jockeys or music jockeys, or..) have to gauge the likes and dislikes spot on. In some cases, where audience receptiveness can be measured, the presenters lose not just job and livelihood, but something even more un-tangible that only a person who has a huge fan following can understand when she or he loses that adulation. And look at the future that many of these folks have to face once they cross maybe 25, or 30 or 35 years of age. In the west, a retired jock either joins the radio fraternity in some other capacity and hence moves on to relative obscurity or maybe becomes a journalist or writer or something else.

Initially, when I thought of doing the summation of the event, I thought that I’d write advice to the founders, the presenters of the IRF about how to make the event better, to have more representation from the east and the countries like mine that are still in the process of opening new FM radio stations by the hundreds, if not the thousands, the job opportunities, the way businesses and the ad agencies have suddenly found radio to be a more than adequate mode of delivering very very localized ads, promos, jingles….. That the current format of IRF Zurich is not a true representation of all humans on Gaia.

I’d thought that I’d write a summation of the proceedings from the African and the Occidental perspective….. But then that would be just doubling of what my colleague from my company’s online publication has already done very adequately and in detail too. And at a number of forums and panel discussions, I did mention the numbers that seem mind boggling to the west, but are more than a norm for a mixture of cultures, languages, dialects and types of people that my country is composed of.

A speaker told of the horrors of the internet networks crashing when all 12 million internet users in his country once logged on at the same. How can I really convey to them about the numbers that India has? That 12 million is probably less than one percent of the current population of India, a nation that has about 650 active mobile connections amongst the current 900 million plus registered mobile connections? What would happen to the internet infrastructure even if all the internet users of a small Indian state log onto the internet using just a mobile, not laptop or touchpad or a desktop?

Or, music on radio in India is mainly film music. Annually, India produces about 1000 films, and most of them are, and if one were to consider five as the average number of songs per films, we are talking of around 5000 new songs or radio content without taking into account the remixes and the clones.. That by itself is a huge number and if one were to consider some of the live events that many radio stations participate in, the number of bands that perform all over the country well there’s no dearth of radio music content.

Not many of the delegates were aware of many facts about India-their conception was that we are a backward country with naked fakirs and elephants on the city streets mingling with the odd cobra or two that sometimes take the trouble to bite a person or ten. Myths without any facts backing them….

So where does that leave me…. It gives me an opportunity to, though inadequately (Don’t I love that word adequate!), praise the programmers and the presenters … I mean how does one convey thanks to someone who can sate a human mind by playing just sounds created by someone else? And not just one mind, but the many minds that most jocks can influence with their talk and the sounds that follow the talk…..

Are the players in radio evolved countries really thinking of phasing out these fabulous people? Incredulity is what I read on some of the faces when I mentioned that often it is the jocktalk that can make a radio station really great, or bankrupt it…

Did Indians really want a person to talk before and after a great musical experience is what some of my esteemed co-delegates at the IRF asked? ‘I mean’, said one aghast radio great and co-delegate, ‘why does someone have to decide my playlist and interfere with the music that I want to hear, before and after I listen to it?’ My response from the Indian and maybe the Eastern perspective was and is an emphatic ‘Yes’. Radio is just not radio without the jock talk, and I am not talking about talk shows, but the shows that run music with jock talk varying from a measly minute or two to a massive 12-16 minutes per hour in the case of a very popular RJ from India. I spoke with Eastern co-delegates -the Africans, the Israelis’, the people from a radio station from Singapore, and a lovely couple from Australia who operated a radio station and they concurred with my reply.

So from the lovely Gabby Sanderson to the very astute Normski, and the noble bearing and the rich bass voice of Robert Kraft to the really rocking Mumbai lass Malishka, the pretty young jock from Lithuania - Simona Albaviciute my mind was filled and partially satisfied while demanding more of the same at the same time…….

What is left is a the fact that the Chinese from China didn’t turn up and a friend related a very interesting reason for that and one that I am really skeptical about – the Chinese government was in session and often during a session, changes are announced and the Chinese who have been unfortunate enough to be on tour in another country during the session change could get stranded forever there since the people who endorsed their travel may no longer be there to endorse their re-entry ….

I’d thought of paeans in praise of Swiss Tourism, Swiss International Airlines, Swiss Travel System, of Darryl von Daniken and Miguel and Mj Sorenson and Martin and….. well, the entire team that made it possible for the people from the radio industry to come together and share knowledge, exchange notes, but I think that would be a cliché.. Swiss hospitality is well, just that.. fabulous…