The relationship with radio and the people of Bangladesh dates back to the pre liberation war era when Radio Pakistan used to broadcast its transmission in the region now known as Bangladesh, which was liberated on December 16, 1971. In those days the only source of entertainment was listening to the radio, which definitely was not by design though.
The broadcasting station “Shadheen Bangla Betar” reached its pinnacle during the 1971 liberation war being acclaimed as the stool pigeon of war news updates through ‘Chorom Potro’. During the war radio had played an important role like transmitting Sheikh Mujib’s important 7th March speech which set the journey toward the independence of Bangladesh.
But the post war broadcasting scenario was quite different. By then other entertainment options were available to the general public and radio transmission lost its charm especially on the city dwellers to its rivals like television and tape recorders. People were more inclined into having a wider choice rather than the limited offerings of the state owned radio. But radio was still famous in the rural areas. On those days movie promotions, advertisements of products necessary in day-to-day life, programs for family planning awareness, top songs from favorite movies, were the main attractions.
During the Eighties one particular show- ‘World Music’ gained huge popularity among the youths. In the Nineties special shows were aired on specific times which eventually had to be stopped because of lack of listeners. With the dawning of the new millennium radio broadcasting had become almost a closed chapter altogether.
Around the late 90’s, most probably from the middle of 1999, a private radio channel named “Radio Metro wave” came into picture. It started its transmission in Dhaka for a few hours daily. Some of the programs/shows gained a lot of popularity but later, due to lack of enough audiences, they were obliged to shut the station off. In the late 2005, the government gave permission to set up three more new frequency modulation (FM) band radio channels. These are Radio Foorti (franchise of Radio Mirchi of India), Radio Amar, and ABC Radio. These stations added a new dimension in the lives of the Bengalis. Notable among those are, radio Foorti Radio Today, and Radio Amar.
The sudden entrance of these private radio channels in our lives has changed the entertainment scene overnight. Various programs from three of these radio channels inspire people now to listen to radio in a new way. Behind the popularity of these radio channels is the mentionable role of the built in FM radio technology in the cell phones. While shopping for cell phones, everyone checks now whether it has a built in FM radio. Radio is in everyone’s ears, in the buses, tea stalls. Traffic updates are the most popular programs in all these radio channels as traffic woes grew in the Mega city Dhaka. Along with these, there are various kinds of special programs to celebrate major occasions that have become popular.
As these radio stations gained acceptance it had been a blessing for the music industry. Record label companies found a bigger platform to promote their singed up artist’s music . They promote them on these radio channels by airing unreleased tracks or exclusive tracks of the artists. They have introduced a chart system, where a listener can vote for a certain track by sms. With this the record label companies can assess the popularity of that artist vis a vis a particular song. Until recently music label companies advertised using paper media and with 30 seconds clips on TV. Now listeners can listen to all the upcoming, current or old songs on these radios and can pick the album of their choice. According to the record label companies, their cassettes or cds sales have increased dramatically due to the radio promotions.
These days radio stations are very popular among youths as there are participative shows on which they can join by sending sms. The RJ’s (radio jockeys) read selected sms from them, popular among them are messages for their special ones and dedications of songs, etc. Radio is replacing the trend of listening to car cd players while on the car. Radio has become a part of the daily life of the Bengalis. The coverage areas of these radio channels are limited till now as only the major cities like Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Barishal have these channels. We hope that these channels will widen their reach by transmitting nationwide in the near future.
Ronnie Siraji is a prominent name in Bangladesh Music Industry. He loves to write about music.