When terror struck the City of Mumbai on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 little did the people know that what was happening in their neighbourhood, while television was playing their role and print followed up the next day for radio this was the time to proved all their adversaries that they are not a mere reminder medium but, also a responsible medium.
While print and television went through and through with their coverage to the extend of publishing some gruesome images, the FM stations displayed their own charm with live updates, providing the listeners a platform to express their emotions, some of them even scrapped their regular shows, reduced their song tracks keeping in mind the mood of the listeners. It was an opportunity to show the power of radio particularly at a time when cell phones were jammed. Since people are not able to express their anger before television, print or even internet, radio on the other hand invited listeners to air their views and thoughts.
Big FM for instance provided live updates 24x7 to its listeners with a key message- ‘Mumbai Satark Rahega, Nidar Nahin’ (Be Safe, not Scared), the station even maintained one minute silence in remembrance of the victims on Thursday evening. The station also spoke to the victims of the massacre. Post the crisis, the station plans to organise workshops for citizens preparing them in such situations.
Radio Mirchi too sent updates to their listeners from 10 pm Wednesday and throughout. Traffic updates were also provided which had to do anything with the utility of listeners. Mirchi followed up all their updates from Times Now and claims to have verified their facts before airing them. The station also managed to rope in Mumbai Mayor Shubha Raul, the BMC head etc. The station also scrapped some of their regular shows particularly the humour ones.
Radio City also jumped into the fray going live, speaking to eyewitnesses, relatives of victims, they even got reporters to air updates of the situation. Throughout Thursday and parts of Friday the station aired voices of the Taj and Oberoi Hotel employee who had managed to escape. The station also roped in police personnel’s to speak. Live updates along with helpline numbers were also aired and eyewitnesses’ accounts too were aired.
Red FM adopted the theme ‘Awaaz Uthate Raho’, they roped in Mayor of Mumbai Shubha Raul who promised on-air to use her direct contacts in the administration and raise these questions with Mr. R. R. Patil, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Red FM reduced music on-air to accommodate the calls from people including victims, families of victims, eye witnesses, staff members of the hotels and the common man who have come forward to speak about their experiences, to send out a plea, to express their anger or to demand answers for their unanswered questions.
Radio One too allowed their listeners to air their views and emotions following the tragic incident, the FM station roped in a popular RJ’s from other FM stations- Red FM and Big FM being one of them with an aim to spread one spirit and one Mumbai. Post the event Radio One also aims to organise a peace rally and a host of other activities sometime soon.
On whether live updates contradict with news, Garima Wahal, Programming Head Mumbai Big FM said, “We are an entertainment medium therefore we believe in giving our listeners whatever they want. It is certainly not news that we are giving but, merely informing them about the situation and avoid any kind of panic.”
Indira Rangarajan, Programming Head Mumbai, Radio Mirchi said, “Next week things will still be fluid however we plan to organise special events for our cops. When we give updates, it does not mean we are giving news however we are giving news that is relevant to our listeners, news on traffics, whether it would be wise for people to go to schools, colleges or even for work on that day. It is certainly not contradictory to news and current affairs.”
Raj Gopal Iyer Station head, West, Radio One said, “Radio being a local medium, like always was accessible to listeners even in times of crises by allowing the listeners to air their views and emotions and we as a station stuck to that. The core objective however was to tell the listeners about the spirit of Mumbai and the importance of being ‘one’.”