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Big fun for little ears
by Manjula Ramakrishnan September 07, 2018
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Commuters on the way to office or back home, families on a long weekend drive have one shared passion. It is never uncommon to find the car radio as a faithful companion during such drives. Radio at home is always within reach, playing one’s favourite music or discussing the nation and the world at large. In short, despite the advent of television, tablets and other modern hand-held technological visual advances, the radio still remains at the core of everyone’s heart.

Taking this one step forward is a radio station — Pearl 102FM. What is unique here is that it is the region’s first and only radio station meant exclusively for children and therefore for families too. Under the slogan ‘we’re growing up’ the station broadcasts in English from the Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children.

“Pearl FM is a cultural space in Dubai which provides a platform dedicated to enriching the lives of children through a wide a range of cultural learning and artistic programmes, rooted in children’s curiosity, creativity and love of play,” says Hussein Al Atoli, station manager at Pearl FM.

Speaking exclusively to Panorama, Hussein explains how this segment was waiting to be addressed, the creativity of children and the need to help them grow in every sphere of their lives.

What are children’s expectations from the radio station?
Our listeners are our friends. PearlFM is all about providing children with a voice and supporting and trusting them. We are amazed by the amount of positive feedback, calls, studio visits from our listeners on a daily basis. We foster imagination and creativity and provide a safe environment for them. Our philosophy is to understand expectations from our target listeners and endeavour to provide content such that there is something in it for everybody.

Will the radio station train children to become good RJs?
We create a professional, safe and most importantly fun environment for our fans, listeners and youngsters interested in becoming RJs or even interested in the world of radio and what goes behind the scenes. The Kids Club, a show hosted and produced by children, gives initial training to our talented presenters and they take the lead in presenting, which in turn empowers decision making, invigorates critical thinking with heightened thought processes.

How did the idea of something exclusively for children come about?
This stems out of our desire to fulfil the vision of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Broadcasting from Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children, it complements the centre’s role as a cultural space, which provides a platform dedicated to enriching the lives of children through a wide a range of cultural learning and artistic programmes. The programmes are rooted in children’s curiosity, creativity and love of play.

How much of business sense does this make and how has the response been so far?
Pearl FM radio station does not consider itself a fully commercial radio station. Culture, education and children are the most important elements in any development strategies of the government. Pearl FM is under Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children, and Al Jalila is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation). Any business revenue helps to invest more in our other children’s projects in education, culture, health and sustainability. The response so far has been very rewarding, giving us ample encouragement to pursue what we set out to do with and for children.

What is the programme content? What larger message does this hold for its young listeners?
The station presents a wide variety of interactive live shows and features. During the shows, listeners enjoy the latest hits while discussing topics that cater to them, from toddlers to 12 years of age and their parents. There are also opportunities for school children to get creative and to take over the airwaves by presenting their own content.

How do you maintain the balance between entertainment and serious content?
As a family radio station that caters to every member of the family and society, we make sure our secondary listener demographic like older members of the family and even teachers are taken care of. It effectively means, our content is a right mixture of all elements, entertainment, dissemination of information, fun, discussions and similar.

Will there be active student involvement in the programme content?
There are always opportunities for school children to get creative and to take over the airwaves. This could be by way of presenting their own content, perform on air or even talk about their day at school. Students are more than welcome to share facts during live shows by texting 1199 or through our WhatsApp number 056-9950022.


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