Fine tuning in trying times


The radio has been an integral part of our lives, since the time it was invented. Through all the wars, floods, earthquakes, accidents, the radio has stood tall as the most reliable means of communication. Today, on World Radio Day, with the theme of ‘Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster’, NT BUZZ talks to few radio jockeys across the state to find out the scope for the first modern medium of communication
Janice Rodrigues| NT BUZZ
From the transistors and walkmans, to the music system and now cell phones, all these gadgets come equipped with the series of fine lines that give you music and updates on news, sports and other happenings around you. It is quite rare to come across a person who has not tuned into the radio to listen to the voice of a favourite radio jockey or just for the pure pleasure of listening to music.
However, very few realise that this medium is an all important and powerful communication tool during emergencies too.
This World Radio Day, February 13, the UNESCO has decided to highlight the use of the ‘Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster’. There have been a lot of examples where the radio had been resorted to, as a means of getting updates, and connecting people during emergency situations. From airing tsunami alerts in Japan and Chile, and information on how to avoid Ebola transmission in Liberia or the weather updates when hurricanes strike in the USA. Closer home in India we had seen the use of the radio in time of the floods and other calamities. The amateur radio, HAM in Kolkata became a vital lifeline for many people inquiring about family members who were incommunicable during the Chennai floods; while the Mumbai Amateur Radio Society were at work during the Mumbai train bombings, Maharashtra floods, Indian Ocean earthquake and even the Gujarat earthquake providing necessary communication links after other modes of communication failed. “The radio has a much wider reach and nowadays there are various smaller sections of society setting up their own community radios which cater to their specific needs. And with this concept the radio is penetrating more into the rural areas in India, rather than in the urban. The use of radio in emergencies like natural disasters and other such calamities is of utmost reliance, as when all other signals die down, the radio is the only signal that generally works. “So you will have people tuning in to the radio to get updates rather than rely on the cellphones,” says Sachin Chatte, RJ, AIR FM Rainbow. The reach of the radio is so wide, that in fact during emergencies people are told to keep the radio safe and keep a stash of spare batteries.
Radio jockeys across the state have stressed on the relevance of the medium, however, they say that the radio is more readily used in the western countries and that the full potential has to be yet seen in India. “In countries like the USA where they have specialised radio channels it is used more often for emergencies. In places like the metros Mumbai, Bangaluru, they give updates about what’s happening on a daily basis, but very rarely do you come across people talking about emergencies. Like in the USA when the hurricane hit, there were a lot of updates with the scenarios and evacuation process. In India maybe we haven’t had an emergency of that magnitude, but I have heard some updates about train accidents,” says Godfrey Gomes, RJ, FM Rainbow.
In Goa itself, the radio has yet to be seen as a medium of communication, with most radio channels airing music it still needs to see the light of a more involved approach, though certain channels do keep updated with what is happening around the state. “Unlike other mediums, Radio is a ‘now’ medium. Something happens, and the RJ announces it instantly. Our radio channel has a segment on traffic. If there is a traffic jam or an accident, listeners call, we announce and give alternate routes which help people save on time,” says Pankaj Kurtarkar, RJ, Radio Mirchi.
Fortunately, Goa has not been faced with an emergency that would warrant the use of the radio, however it has been used to help people in times of need. “Coming to the Goan scenario, there have not been emergencies of a huge magnitude, but there have been instances of people asking for help. Like one instance, there was a caretaker whose dog went missing, while the owners were out of station. After searching around to no avail, she came to ask the radio station for help and we aired it. And soon enough, we got a caller telling us he spotted the dog,” says Sachin.
Uday chari, from BIG FM also recounts an incident when the radio was used during a time of need: “Touch wood there has been hardly any situation in Goa for which we had to depend on the radio. But I remember once there was an unannounced strike by FORCE and we were getting many inquiries from our listeners. Though we were not able to help the situation, many people got an idea of what was happening in real time. We were getting calls and updating listeners about the situations in Porvorim, Vasco, Mapusa Cortalim, etc. Now that does not mean that radio does not help. Many a time we get phone calls saying that when they drive though they know the traffic rules, radio shows help them relearn them. But god forbid if anything happens in Goa, radio can play a major role in emergency.”
The radio and its potential still needs to be tapped, however, sometimes policies too, play a major role in stating what gets aired and what doesn’t. “Generally it all comes down to the policies of the radio channel, like for Rainbow FM, since we come under the management of the Central Government, we cannot air something until we get an order from there. Though we may not have had any major tragedy in Goa, but I think when the time comes people will use all possible means of communication, including the radio,” says Godfrey.