Radio keeps rocking through the ears


  • Business
  • Saturday, 03 Oct 2009

LISTENING and driving! These are two things you can do in a car without flouting the law.

I’m sure our readers can think of a million other things they can do inside a car and get away with. But there’s no mistaking that many people’s first love for radio happened in the driver or passenger’s seat. “Drive Time” became part of the media lexicon even before air-conditioning arrived in cars.

In fact, a car radio was “standard issue” in most cars from day one. And as far as I can recall, it was never an optional accessory.

Sing-alongs, romance and even tempers flared when the radio played. Multiple channel choices and the advent of FM transmission almost 35 years ago only added to the magic of radio, which some creative people term as the “theatre of the mind”.

Everybody has their favourite radio station or network. Formatted radio also evolved listeners’ choices as they “surfed” to suit their mood at any time of the day or night. Choice became the order of the day and this was followed by “followings”.

To say that radio’s home is in the car couldn’t be further from the truth.

Just as cars became “dating vehicles”, radio naturally went along to enhance the experience. It is not uncommon to see people nodding their heads or tapping their steering wheels to the beat of music in their cars (one TV commercial actually had this habit as their central idea once).

Radio has many emotions and they are intertwined with our lives – sad, happy, sentimental, loneliness – it moves you like the music it transmits and shares.

Whatever the song, one thing is for sure – radio on wheels is here to stay.

Overall there are 63 over-the-air radio services in Malaysia: 14 English language, 41 Bahasa Malaysia, four Chinese language, two Tamil language and one Arabic. Thirty-one are private commercial stations.

Radio reaches 92% of Malaysians 10 years old and above in an average week across most demographic groups.

In line with this, Commercial Radio Malaysia (CRM), formerly known as Macro or Malaysian Association of Commercial Radio Operators, launched Radio Day on Sept 9 (090909).

Radio Day is a momentous milestone for the industry. It is friendly fire, as they say on the battlefield, between competing commercial radio stations. But members of CRM are committed to working together as a team to advance our industry in terms of programming, policies, marketing promotions, and technological advancement.

Says CRM president Datuk Borhanuddin Osman: “The business of radio has changed – just as the business of cinemas, television, clubs, and theatre has evolved. Perhaps it is ironic, but get this: more people listened to radio for greater lengths of time 50 years ago. Sure, radio at that time was the primary vehicle for news and entertainment. It is for this reason that we have chosen to commemorate Radio Day in Malaysia. We have travelled far as an industry. The death spell cast on radio by nay-sayers is unfounded. In the past year, radio registered the highest year-on-year growth at 9.2% in advertising sales despite the dreary economic outlook. Obviously some advertisers have enjoyed positive results with the media’s best kept secret!”

The inauguration of Radio Day in Malaysia is timely for a number of reasons. The industry as a whole is evolving at a much faster pace today.

Digital radio, podcasting, mobile and Internet radio will soon transport radio to a new dimension – and engage a lot more people. Today radio is also an interactive medium across multiple disciplines ranging from on-air promotions, chat lines, to on-ground events.

> Harmandar Singh, a.k.a. Ham, is regional CEO of Sledgehammer Communications (M) Sdn Bhd

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