Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Radio Daze

You know what I miss? All Things Considered. Morning Edition. Even A Prairie Home Companion. Hell, I'm so desperate for good radio I'd almost settle for Paul Harvey, rest his soul.

For radio, you see, is not exactly the strongest selling point of our beloved little Sultanate. You basically have two choices: woefully incompetent English stations (and only two of those), or only marginally less annoying Arabic ones (a slightly larger handful).

So really, it boils down to language. On the English side, we have two choices: on the private station - let's call it Yo! FM - we can spend our listening hours figuring out where the owners found the tragic specimens, all more or less Brits, who pass for our Radio Personalities. I pass the time trying to decide who is more dreadful - the vile creature, an apparently grown woman, who - from all I can tell, quite voluntarily - calls herself "Rachie Roo", or the bluff Hearty Harry type who supposedly runs the joint.

Being nominally commercial, this station has the added poor fortune to have to run the locally produced adverts - is there a listener out there who hasn't considered self-immolation at the words, "Maria, your soor-joor-y is complete..."?

Unable to discuss politics or any even vaguely potentially controversial issue, doubtless too lightly staffed to get any local reporting, and otherwise simply not very bright, what they're left with are quiz questions. Oh, my God; the quiz questions. It's like listening, in slow motion, to a a version of Match Game '73 designed for the simpleminded: "According to a survey, 90% of men look forward to this on their wedding nights!" All you need is Brett Somers chiming in with "Whoopie!". But no such luck.

The state-owned English station also inspires a certain puzzlement, although in its case it centers on why, in a country in which a very large proportion of the citizenry speaks perfectly acceptable, even mellifluous, English, the civil servants doing the hiring at government radio feel obliged to bring on board broadcasters who give very impression of having learned from a third-rate correspondence course. Whom do we hate more - the morning-show DJ whose fairly good accent collapses to shreds when faced with any even vaguely offbeat word or name, or the nasally adenoidal lady whose mincing tones are equal parts '40s Delhi, '80s Blackpool, and a bad Dame Edna impersonator? I simply can't decide.

Oh, I know I'm spoiled - not least by National Public Radio back home, but also by having started my expat experiences in capitals that featured FM relays of the BBC. No such luck here, of course, but even here we once fared better. On my car radio is a sad remnant, in the form of a now-useless station preset, of a magical time last year when, for an extended period, we somehow had a clear signal from a station in a neighboring emirate - a station that combines songs one might actually want to listen to if aged between something like 25 and 50 with disk-jockeys who are self-effacing, informative, and even, from time to time, amusing.

In short, come back, Coast-FM - all is forgiven! I don't ask for Nina Totenberg, Carl Kassel, or the glorious Terry Gross, but I'd easily settle for a respite from Faiq on the Mic or - shudder - the dreaded Miss Roo.


  1. I'm a sucker for Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me myself.

    Muscato, Darling, can't you listen to webcasts of NPR and the BBC over the InterTubes?

  2. Oh, you practical thing, you.

    Of course I can, and do. I'm old-fashioned though, and just love listening to the radio in the car. But not here...

  3. How I miss this post? This is, without a doubt, your best ever commmentary on the local scene.

    Dust of those preset buttons! For the last month or two, I have been able to pick up the Coast and Virgin radio almost 50% of the time.


  4. Suburban - thanks! I had hoped it would cause a firestorm of local controversy and result in the sudden departure of Rachie, but no such luck.

    I've finally bought a little FM transmitter that lets me play the iPod in the car, so I've stopped listening altogether. Much better for the blood pressure!

  5. I have one of those! Mine broadcasts in a 15 meter radius of my car, drowning out anything else on the frequency.

    I like to set mine to 90.4 or 95.8 so I can blast out the local radio stations in the cars parked next to me at stop lights. I fighre I'm doing my part to help improve the musical tastes of the Sultanate. :)

  6. I never considered its effects on nearby cars! If you're driving and your radio suddenly switches to really tacky disco or '30s nightclub music - look around, 'cause that would be me....