x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Star FM serves a mix Arabic and Western pop

The new radio station that aims to connect with young Arabs who are as comfortable listening to Nancy Arjram as they are to Britney Spears.

Karim Sarkis, left,  and Abdulrahman Awadh al Harthi at the launch of Abu Dhabi Media Company's new radio station Star FM.
Karim Sarkis, left, and Abdulrahman Awadh al Harthi at the launch of Abu Dhabi Media Company's new radio station Star FM.

Star FM, a new radio station that aims to connect with young Arabs who are as comfortable listening to the singer Nancy Ajram as they are to Britney Spears, was officially unveiled Wednesday after its first broadcast last month. The station, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Media Company, the publisher of The National, plays a mixture of Arabic and western pop, interspersed with light entertainment, news updates and listener-generated content. "Not a single station in the Middle East has tried to do this," said Farid Antone, the head of the station. "It's not easy to do this mix between the Arabic and the English songs. It requires new, special techniques and taste." This technique will be most audible in IMIX, the daily programme running during evening drive time, which presents a block of Arabic and English pop songs back-to-back, with no commercial breaks. Other innovations include Star DJ, which allows callers to phone in their own introductions to songs. Star FM will be broadcast on 92.4 FM in Abu Dhabi, 100.1 FM in Al Ain and 99.9 FM in Dubai. It will also be available online and via mobile phones and satellite receivers. It was launched after an audience research study found that 63 per cent of Arabs aged between 15 and 35 in the UAE enjoy listening to both Arab and western music. "We found in the results of our research that this category is educated, they used the internet, they travel and they speak Arabic and English," said Abdulrahman Awadh al Harthi, the director of Abu Dhabi Radio Network. "The males like to listen to music and the females like to listen to programmes and both of them like to listen in English and Arabic." News programmes will be kept short and light, such as 30 to 40-second updates of what is happening in every major city in the Middle East, and in cities in Europe and the US. There will also be hourly updates of celebrity and sports news, and daily exclusive five-minute chats with celebrities. "It is extremely up-to-date, trendy, funky and modern," Mr al Harthi said. Advertising blocks will also be kept short by design, in an attempt to make the station more listenable and the advertising time more valuable, said Karim Sarkis, ADMC's executive director of broadcast. "We did not want to put a lot of advertising on this station," he said. "We have limited the minutes for the ads, so the value of the ads is increased." The channel represents ADMC's first step into a partially western radio offering. The media company also owns 30 radio stations in the UAE and operates four, including Emarat FM, which plays the latest Emirati and Khaleeji releases; Quran Kareem FM, which broadcasts recitals of the Quran and programmes discussing social issues; and Abu Dhabi FM, the Arabic oldies station. Mr Sarkis said that the station's new format would not cannibalise ADMC's current radio listening audience or its advertisers. Part of the station's advertising sales strategy would involve selling packages across ADMC's different media outlets, which stretch from print to television to the digital realm, he said. Mr Sarkis said he was not worried about launching a new venture during a period of slow advertising growth for the UAE, since radio advertising was one of the least expensive kinds of advertising available to brands, and usually a relative beneficiary of financial hard times. Mr Antone agreed: "The best time to launch a radio station is during a crisis." khagey@thenational.ae Correction In an earlier version of the story we misreported the frequency the station broadcasts in Abu Dhabi. The National regrets the error.