Radio Roulette

Posted on 05/05/2012


Radio Roulette

After a whole year’s sabbatical from listening to Nigerian radio, I decided recently to pay a salutary visit. It was one of those Lagos traffic days when you find yourself at the mercy of whatever obstruction has caused a hopeless bottleneck ahead of you. So, as I sojourned, at snail speed through Kingsway, Ikoyi, Osbourne, 3rd Mainland and onwards towards my destination point at Ikeja, I was willing to appreciate whatever came off the airwaves. It was a few minutes after 8 in the morning. The breakfast shows were on.

Recently, you see, I have been addicted to online radio stations and have a list on virtual lockdown that stretches from WBLS and Hot 97, to Heart Essex and Radio 5 – Sport radio, London. From New York City to Kingston, Jamaica, and on to 1.FM in Switzerland. From Rick Dees to Sue and Phillip on the Heart Breakfast Show, West Midlands in England. From Top 40 to Classic Rock. Nothing compared to the stations on my daily playlist! But I was willing to be kind and accommodating that morning – after all, look what lay ahead!

Technology has been both a plus and a disadvantage for modern broadcasting. Advantageous because of the numerous benefits of digital technology – touch-screen computers, automated equipment, better space management, less staff, improved, cleaner audio quality, no audio feedback, no clutter, numerous avenues for streams – and online broadcasts. A minus, because the same technology also makes it easier for the listener to re-tune or switch off annoying broadcasts. Easier still, in a ‘full options’ mobile machine, with audio control gadgetry on the steering!

That morning, between Ikoyi and the bridge, I shifted between the ‘Island’ stations – Beat, Inspiration, Classic, Smooth, and the old ‘warhorses, Cool and Rhythm. There was nothing much to look forward to on the latter two – unless you were a young advertising executive given the task of monitoring competitive advertising material. When I was a younger practitioner it was illegal to play any more than six commercial spots straight in a single bloc. That morning I counted up to twelve straight on Rhythm and twenty-two on Cool FM! Search button!

I found Beat and Classic close by. On both stations I met a different kind of clutter – the yakkitty-yak type, all talk, no substance. Talk is good, when it has meaning, purpose and reason. But I had the feeling that the presenters I heard on both stations that morning were more in love with the sound of their voices, than with an enlightening relationship with the listener. When I hear a presenter mention his or her name up to thrice within a speech band – every speech band, I know it time for my search button!

Next stop – Smooth. That morning, Smooth was, well, smooth! My book on synonyms could provide alternative names for the station that would take nothing away from the owners’ original designs. How about Bland FM? Or Placid FM? Perhaps with the added pay off: For peace and quiet in your life, get with Smooth! Nah! For me, it wasn’t the best way to start the day – there was enough stillness and lack of movement on the highway already! As exciting as the voices tried to sound, the music selected always had a way of dulling the mood. Press search!

The esteemed Mr. Foster was on at Inspiration. I was a bit amused that he hadn’t changed much – same old’ ‘deputy dawg’ stuff! (Who let this dawg out? Woof, woof!) I’ve never really been a fan of Wazobia, so I didn’t even stay a blimp. Don’t get me wrong – nothing wrong with pidgin language broadcasts, what with the large demographic value. However as a strong advocate of development media strategy, I strongly believe that those special attributes that such stations as Wazobia have, should be employed for the purpose of mass mobilisation, national regeneration and awareness, and not for amusement, slapstick and comedy, as is being done. Their services have no business being commercialised! My opinion!

I’ve always wondered what Brilla has meant to be. Sport station 24-7 it isn’t! I’ve admired Brilla in the past. It has had some of Nigeria’s brightest stars on its payroll and continues to represent without compromising standard. I like the sound of the voices I hear. But still, the station must decide what the priority is – sport, or music, or both. Presently it is not what it thinks it is! That’s an observer’s viewpoint.

I almost missed Nigeria Info on the digital dial and had to manually fine tune. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered – the public was having a field day providing a ready-made programme for the jobless station programme designers and producers. The phone-in show is the laziest approach to broadcast programming I’ve ever seen. Nigerian radio and even television stations have taken the silly fad to new levels – devoting entire hour upon hour to listener views and opinions on the most mundane of issues. It’s even gotten worse with the addition of Twitter and Facebook garbage!

By this time I was already on the mainland. My options seemed fewer – the traditional radio stations had long ceased to interest me. Seemed they had all run out of ideas and were unwilling to renew nor re-strategise, so I didn’t even bother checking out Ray Power, Star FM or Eko FM. Sincere apologies if you feel hurt, but ask yourselves, when last did you attempt something new? Search, jare!

Ah! City FM! I liked the name, the morning show host seemed a bit talkative, but at least he managed to hold my attention through three songs. Top FM had a lot of clutter. The station sounded rather noisy and there was a lot of shouting going on. Perhaps the station had it’s audience, for me it sounded a bit too juvenile – for a while I actually thought I was listening to Unilag FM, until I heard the now familiar station password: ‘Area!’

Closer to destination my auto search found Rainbow FM. It was hard to flow with these chaps. They sounded confused – a mixed presentation duo that sounded as far apart as Central Station, New York and the disused Enugu rail station! The lady was yakking off like she was on Broadway; brother couldn’t even blend his tenses together! I scarpered! There was one station I frantically searched for that morning. Sadly it was missing in action. I actually headed Radio Continental for over three years, and genuinely wanted to hear how they had been faring. Unfortunately, it seemed the station hadn’t gotten over it’s niggling technical morass. That morning RC102.3 was off air…again!

I was almost at my destination, but still had the Maryland conundrum to get through. I wasn’t feeling any better. My radio station trip had left me feeling like I was stranded on a lonely island in the middle of nowhere. It was like a tale of two cities. On one side you think you’re in America, on the other it’s a bad English dream. I needed escape. What else to do? Then I remembered, my Adele CD! Select CD player. Select CD1.Press play. Set Fire to the Rain! Ah! Peace…at last!

God’s guidance, always