Friday, July 15, 2011

Visit to Radio Pakistan

Today I took my girls to Radio Pakistan Abbottabad—a local branch of Radio Pakistan which is headquartered in Islamabad. The station was conveniently 5 minutes away by car from the Girls Section. At the station, we were welcomed by one of the program ladies, Ms. Nadia Bano and an engineering director, Bhakkar Ahmed. Mr. Ahmed showed us the studio, the booth, and the control room.

In the studio, where the program readers sit, there was a two-person table with two microphones on it. This set-up was similar to what I had seen at NPR when I participated in the Washington Urban Journalism Workshops as a junior and senior in high school. Mr. Ahmed explained to us how a radio a show is produced; what the big white boxes on the wall were; and what the job of an engineer was in the control room.

Radio Pakistan is censored by the government and therefore is not free press media.
A radio show starts with lots of rambling of people in interviews. Then sound control engineers edit everything that was recorded and choose the best sound bites. Once a preliminary program is finalized, a new set of editors edit the show before sending it to government officials to approve. Once it is stamped OK, the show is aired. The process of producing a radio show is much different than producing a newspaper, and it was interesting to learn about a censored media outlet. There is one advantage that radios have over newspapers: it reaches a larger audience because illiterates can obtain news by simply listening to the radio.

The white boxes that had holes in them are filled with wool and beaten glass to absorb the sound and prevent an echo. In normal places like homes, usually there are things like curtains or furniture that absorb sound waves and thus do not produce a echo. Therefore in an empty room like the radio studio, the white boxes serve that purpose. How interesting!

The staff at Radio Pakistan Abbottabad was very hospitable to us. They even did a show on us—to be aired on Saturday at 2 p.m. Wicked cool! They served us Mountain Dew as well, a refreshing taste we all appreciated in the heat.

Before leaving, we met with the director, who welcomed us into his office and gave us an opportunity to ask him questions. When silence fell, he filled it with, “You want to see my kids? Let me show you their photos.” At first, I thought, “How odd. Who whips out photos of their kids to show strangers?” The director explained each photo, one by one, and passed it around. His three, adorable, and innocent kids—one girl and two boys—were standing with important government officials, receiving trophies for their accomplishments, smiling with their parents.

For one of the photos, I said, “Your son is so adorable! In this photo, what grade is he in?”

“He was in first grade when he won that award.”

“Wow, mashAllah, what grade is he in now?” I asked, so impressed with the little boy.

Silence fell upon the room. Did I ask something wrong? Uh-oh...perhaps I should have kept quiet. Why did I have to say something! What's wrong? Why is there silence?

More silence. This time I could feel it slice my guts.

After a few minutes, a hushed voice spoke up.

“Actually, Mariya, all three of his children died in the earthquake 2005,” said Ms. Nadia.

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