Normally a voice of experience and trust, the new Radio 1 and 2 have done away with convention and hired newcomers
How the voices of Radio 1 and 2 find ways to relate to the UAE audience
When Radio 1 and Radio 2 were pulled off the air last June, it signalled the end of an era. The radio stations, which were managed by Gulf News Broadcasting at the time, in many ways provided the quintessential soundtrack for expatriates in the UAE.
The cooler, current hits of Radio 1 complemented the more mature, laid back vibe of Radio 2, a station whose playlist relied heavily on classic tracks from the eighties and nineties.
More importantly, perhaps, both stations played a role in presenting Dubai as a fun, dynamic place to be.
Then in April, Abu Dhabi Media relaunched the brand from the capital.
Station manager Maha Alameeri looks at the relaunch as a natural development rather than a complete revamp. “We wanted to create something new and fresh and different, but at the same time we recognise that both stations do have a following and loyalty,” she says.
Nearly five months in, and that balance is starting to be apparent.
While the musical offerings from both stations are similar, the freshness Alameeri aims for is found in their choices of breakfast radio announcers. Normally a voice of experience and trust, the new Radio 1 and 2 have done away with convention and hired newcomers. Instead, with listeners waking up to Elliot and Nimi on Radio 1, and the Morning Show with Laura and Rich on Radio 2, the stations’ on-air personalities are not only fresh to our ears but to the country.
Sitting in on the final hour of the Elliot and Nimi show, the duo’s banter is punctuated with hand gestures indicating the presenter’s turn to jump in on-air.
From Australia, Elliot Lovejoy joined the station a couple of weeks ago, alongside the UK’s Nimi Mehta, who was with the station since the launch. Nimi says the duo’s relationship on-air guarantees their banter will not slide into the usual morning pleasantries.
“What we noticed we do a lot differently than other stations is we try to keep our content relatable as possible,” she says. “So when we are talking about how we are both new in the UAE and Abu Dhabi, listeners give us a call and tell us they know exactly what we are talking about. We do want to be the people next door unlike some other presenters who perhaps feel like they are untouchable.”
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That community outreach can be heard in what is fast becoming a popular section of the radio show called Expatcent – where the duo must guess where the caller is from.
What could easily have descended into clichéd humour becomes something more interesting, as Elliot exhibits a genuine curiosity when chatting to a Bangladeshi caller.
“It’s about getting out to the people,” he says. “It is fun and easy, and more importantly it’s to get as many people’s voices on the radio. We spoke to people from Somalia, Pakistan and Malaysia. It just shows how diverse we are, but together at the same time.”
Mehta found that listeners relate when both announcers discuss their differences. “We do emphasise that a lot, in that Elliot talks about the difference in living in Australia and being here for four weeks,” she says. “While in the three months that I have been here, I’ve talked about growing up in London and also about my Indian heritage which reels more listeners in.”
A more settled on-air dynamic can be heard in the studio of Radio 2, with the Morning Show presented by Rich and Laura on the air since April.
Unlike the peppy banter of Elliot and Nimi, the Radio 2 equivalent is a more sanguine affair.
“We have been thrown together in the hope that we can work together,” quips Richard “Rich” Allen of his fellow UK colleague Laura Naylor.
Naylor says a lot of discussion on the show focuses on their experiences in a new city, something that all expats relate to.
“Whether its talking about going to my first Abu Dhabi nightclub or checking out some galleries, there is always something new we are experiencing and sharing with our readers.”
When broadcasting to one of the most diverse societies on Earth, Allen says finding a common ground is more gut instinct than marketing surveys.“But ultimately what works all the time, is just to talk about human stories. People will always respond to that.”
It is a perspective inherent to Abu Dhabi, Alameeri says. “I think we look at ourselves more as people in the UAE and not just as that we are from one particular city,” she says.
“When you are from Abu Dhabi there is a sense of groundedness and friendliness, a feeling that we are all in this together.”