Radio programme helps those who have run out of options.
Answers are still up on the air
ABU DHABI // Fifteen years of presenting the Studio 1 programme on Emarat FM Radio have not dulled Ahmad Al Mejaini's desire to help the public navigate the sometimes cruel sea of bureacracy.
Mr Al Mejaini says the day he stops doing the job, "that day will mean there are no more problems or complaints in the UAE".
For two hours each weekday, from 10am to noon, two presenters and two producers to try to solve the problems of those who feel hopelessly entangled in red tape by bringing them together with officials.
Behind the scenes, of course, there is much more than that 10 hours of work to bring the show to air.
The producers receive about 60 text messages and more than 150 calls each day seeking assistance, and answer all of them.
"We get all sorts of calls and some of the problems we get almost every day concern du and Etisalat services," said Faisal Al Wahdi, a producer. "Others concern Mawaqif and health services.
"During Ramadan, it's mostly about the high prices of goods. In September, it's about school registrations and high school fees."
Mr Al Wahdi and his co-producer, Moza Al Jassim, call authorities in the department where the problem has originated, or someone who can resolve the issue.
"I answer the calls while my colleague answers the texts," Mr Al Wahdi said. "We listen to the callers' problems then call the person who is responsible."
Because most of the calls and the officials' responses are aired on live radio, the answer is usually immediate.
"Most officials are very cooperative," Mr Al Wahdi said. "Others are not and we do go on air and mention that a certain official has refused to respond."
Problems are aired only if the issue is resolved and the official and caller agree to the case being broadcast.
The Studio 1 team says it resolves 80 per cent of the problems.
"Our programme is followed closely by the Rulers of the country," Mr Al Wahdi said.
"Sometimes while the presenter is reading out a text, the Ruler will have a representative call the show to resolve the issue."
The team is proud of the service it provides on Emarat FM, which is owned by Abu Dhabi Media, publisher of The National.
"Although it's very tiring and we are a small team, I feel very happy when I help a caller," Ms Al Jassim said.
One of the cases she is particularly pleased about resolving was that of a newlywed woman, 24, who was being threatened with prison.
"This woman called and said that the bank was going to send her to jail because she had a Dh60,000 debt she couldn't pay off," Ms Al Jassim said.
"I called the bank and they agreed to delay the instalment until she could find a job and pay off her loan.
"She called me the next day crying, and said that if she hadn't called the programme she would at that moment be in jail."
Presenter Salem Al Kaabi receives a dozen angry calls each day.
"My job needs experience and talent," Mr Al Kaabi said. "As the presenter, I have to absorb their anger and leave them feeling that their problem has been listened to and will hopefully be resolved.
"I have to appeal to the caller, our listeners and to officials, each with their different backgrounds, education and mentality."
The programme also allows authorities to stay in touch with the public and lets them know where improvements are needed.
"While officials do their utmost to attend to the needs of the public, it is almost always the fault of the system that these needs are not met," said Mr Al Kaabi.
The team agreed that sometimes it was the people around the authorities and the way they dealt with matters that caused problems.
Listeners who contact the Studio 1 team should be sure to include a contact number so someone from the programme can call back to follow-up the complaint.
Complaints are only broadcast if the caller agrees. To contact Studio 1, send an SMS to 3544 (Dhs 10 per msg), call 600 55 1212, or fax 02 414 5514 .