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Radio has given me the opportunity and power to transform lives : My FM’s RJ Teena

My FM, which has been building up a strong base in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, recently bridged the gap with the radio industry in the US, when one of its radio jockeys, Teena, was invited by the US Consulate for a radio exchange programme. It was the first time ever that an RJ from Asia had been invited to this exchange programme. 

The programme was aimed at understanding and studying their radio station’s working patterns and creating a networking forum for all. 

The 10-day programme, which was organised by the US Consulate in Mumbai, had the group visiting Washington DC, Nashville and San Francisco. As part of the tour, the group visited multiple radio stations comprising of their commercial and community stations along with museums and initiated interactions with media personnel and experts. 

In conversation with Adgully, Bhopal-based RJ Teena recounts her experience visiting and interacting with the radio industry in the US, the similarities between the radio industries in the two countries, the massive strides made by radio players in the US, and more. Excerpts: 

What motivated you to become a Radio Jockey? Is My FM your first job?
I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be an RJ, it happened by chance. I had applied for a talent hunt in my home town and was selected, that’s how I began my journey as an RJ. My FM is not my first job. I have been a part of My FM for the last 5 years. Radio is a great platform for communicating with the masses. I am a person with strong opinions and radio has given me the opportunity and power to transform lives. 

How were you selected for the radio exchange programme? Was there a contest for it?
RJ Teena: It was not a contest. Sakshi Verma, Product Head, My FM, would be the best person to answer this question. 

Sakshi Verma: We got this invite from the state department in the US Consulate in Mumbai, where they were holding this radio exchange programme for the first time. They wanted a RJ from My FM from Madhya Pradesh to be represented in this programme. Teena is one of our most popular RJs and has worked in our Indore station in the 11 am to 2 pm time band. She is currently hosting the breakfast show in Bhopal. She had that experience and was in her best form. Hence, we selected her to represent MP for this platform. It was indeed a momentous occasion as for the first time ever a radio jockey from Asia had been invited to this exchange programme, considering the invitations were usually reserved for the Print and TV media.

So Teena, could you describe your experience in the US?
It was an amazing experience. Talking about radio, I found the US and India to be two very different markets all together. The whole experience was a great learning for me. Freedom of press in the US is quite phenomenal. You could really talk your heart out and it would not be a big deal in terms of people getting offended, etc. It is all taken in the right spirit. The radio formats vary across different cities in the US. 

What are the different genres that work in a market like the US?
There you find a variety of genres across the country. For instance, Washington DC was different as compared to Nashville and San Francisco. Basically, Nashville had a lot of music and I also visited a few Indian radio stations in San Francisco. There, they also have chat shows. In Indian community radio stations, in terms of content we follow a blend of all. While there is difference in our cultures, there are some basic similarities as well. For instance, I visited a radio station in Nashville, WFM; there too they believe in playing music like we do in India. 

For me personally, when I talk about the learning aspect I saw veterans there with double the experience that I have, who have invested that much time in radio to be able to reach that level. The human connect is there, but the one to one interaction is the basic thing there. Thus, within the US there is a lot of diversity in terms of the formats. When we look at radio in both the countries, the basic content remains the same, it’s just the formats that are different. For example, they have less of music in their breakfast shows and more of discussions. 

According to you, what needs to be done to give radio stations in India a distinct personality, as all stations tend to sound the same?
I kind of disagree on this; I believe radio stations do have their own flavour. Take My FM, for example, the station provides maximum music and content that is not only informative but entertaining as well. We focus on doing a lot of radio realities and connecting with the youth. We also do a lot of shows where we encourage greater audience participation because end of day that matters most. We have to customise our shows according to the local audience and innovate them in order to attract more listeners.

From an RJ’s perspective, where do you see radio in the next 5 years?
We are seeing growing competition from the digital world. Whereas radio as a medium is going more local and live, and is like a friend or a companion with a human touch. Both radio and digital have their own benefits and followers. I believe that RJs wield considerable influence on the listeners and radio still tops among mediums. Of course, print, electronic media, etc., will continue to be relevant, but radio is all together a personal space, according to me. I do see a bright future for radio. 

In the Indian context, most listeners feel that RJs’ incessant chatter is more intrusive than engaging. Your comments?
I feel our job as RJs is to connect with different kinds of people at the same time. I would like to share an example, in the year 2014 there was an operation to rescue kids forced into child labour and I was able to rescue these kids from traffic signals, streets, etc. I often get in contact with various authorities regarding social issues. So, I would say that we utilise the radio medium very constructively. I don’t feel the medium is intrusive. 

What would be your advice to aspiring RJs?
Whoever wants to be a part of this fraternity must definitely know that the voice is not the only aspect, a lot of one’s personality is also showcased through this medium. I see a lot of college students wanting to be a part of this medium and taking it as a part time job. But RJing is not a part time job, a lot of creative and hard work goes into this job. So, one must not get blown away by the glamour of experienced RJs, there’s a lot of hard work behind what goes on air. To summarise, I would say if one really wants to be an RJ, firstly one needs to research well and be very well informed about what he/ she is getting into. My FM also has a branch to promote young and budding talent and the selection happens based on several criteria. So, one must be really serious about it. 

On a more personal note, where do you see yourself in five years’ time? Is there an alternate career plan?
Over the years, I would like to become the best storyteller of my town and build a strong relationship with my listeners. I also want to explore the social media world of videos and chat shows, etc. Digital platform is something that I want to venture into, but radio will always be my home and I definitely want to do great stuff on air. I want to be able to reach people across the globe. I’m very greedy about that fandom.

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