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 For illustrative purposes only

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Updated on Oct. 24 to reflect a new relaunch date for the fall season

After spending a few months retooling its offerings, QF Radio has announced it will return to the airwaves on Sunday, Nov. 1 Sunday, Oct. 25 with three times the number of programs on its schedule.

The Qatar Foundation-run English and Arabic language radio stations operate on 91.7FM and 93.7FM, respectively.

They both went back to the drawing board for a second time in a year over the summer, shelving much of their live programming during the retooling process.

The new line-up will include 25 shows – up from the eight scheduled last year. Two of the radio station’s most popular shows – Rise and Drive – will continue to run.

The early morning Rise show will keep its 6:30 to 8:30am slot, and feature producer Laura Finnerty hosting alongside Georgetown University – School of Foreign Service in Qatar senior Sami Wehbe.

Roger Prior also joins the team as a producer. His entrance comes after former Rise co-host Scott Boyes left Qatar to work for a radio station in neighboring Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

Boyes had steadfastly refused to play Justin Bieber on the radio, but that unofficial ban on the young Canadian pop star will apparently be lifted next week, Finnerty said.

Justin Bieber

Wikipedia

Justin Bieber

“The music we play has always got to be safe, but we also are aware that half of Qatar’s population is under 30 years old. While we cover jazz and classical, we will also have more contemporary music – as long as it’s appropriate,” she added.

Doha News will continue to feature in the program on Sunday mornings with a rundown of the week’s top stories.

Meanwhile, the popular afternoon Drive program has been expanded to two hours, from 4 to 6pm daily.

In what is said to be an effort to put “more of a QF voice to QF Radio,” the stations will include students, faculty members and staff in its new schedule, which will have an “educational backbone, while also being entertaining,” Finnerty told Doha News.

Instability

QF Radio has been in a state of flux since it first launched two and a half years ago. Just 10 months into its inaugural year, the majority of its programs were suddenly canceled and around a dozen people fired in what was said to be a plan to make way for more QF-oriented content.

QF Radio

QF Radio/Facebook

QF Radio

For the following 10 months, listeners heard mostly classical music and community interviews, until a re-launch was announced last October.

At the time, QF’s Media Center manager Mohammed Al Beshri said that the focus would be “to plant and nurture strong traditional values within the nation’s youth,” and one way of doing this would be to teach students how to produce and present their own radio shows.

The upcoming season looks set to expand that rationale, as the new line-up features a mix of shows covering topics including fashion, travel, art and language.

New line-up

Highlights of the new schedule are set to include:

  • Around the world in 30 minutes (Mondays at 6pm): A travel program presented by Sami Wehbe covering tourism, culture and music;
  • Style ahow (Sundays at 9:30pm): Covering a mix of fashion, art, design and graphics with students from Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar;
  • Egos, legends and icons (Mondays at 8pm): Legendary icons of the region are discussed and artists studied in-depth by experts from Mathaf Museum of Modern Art;
  • Obla Air (Sundays and Tuesdays at 1:30pm): A new Arabic-English language learning program in conjunction with the British Council; and
  • Innovations (Sundays at 8:30pm): Science and technology show.
Presenter Nabil Al Nashar

QF Radio

Presenter Nabil Al Nashar

After taking stock of the stations’ strategy, Finnerty said that the new season would “give much more attention to and focus on the experts available to us at QF,” while also trying to make them attractive to a younger audience.

“We are trying to share their expertise with the listeners. All our programs will have an educational backbone to them, but they will also be more youthful.

The music will be switched up to engage as many people as possible, but certainly the younger community in Qatar,” she said.

Addressing the station’s multiple retoolings, Finnerty added:

“It has been an important year for QF Radio. We have had lots of changes recently. To the outside, it might seem inconsistent. But over the past year, we have been trying to get the support and built the content.

“In my four years here, I feel very pleased with the direction we are going in.  I am very confident it is the right direction and that there will be consistency going forward.”

There are a limited number of English language radio stations on air in Qatar, with QBS Radio on 97.5FM being the main chat show/community station, while Al Jazeera English has a live audio feed of its TV broadcast.

Residents have repeatedly called for Qatar to have a good quality English station, but licenses to operate new radio stations are difficult to obtain.

Do you plan to tune into QF Radio when it relaunches? Thoughts?

OCV Photo / Flickr

After 10 months of airing mostly classical music and community interviews, QF Radio’s English- and Arabic-language stations are launching a new show schedule.

The Qatar Foundation-funded stations have been in flux since December, after several of its programs were suddenly taken off air amid a shakeup that resulted in the firing of at least a dozen people.

Now, after months of discussion, the stations, which are on 91.7FM and 93.7FM, are back with a new community focus, and a mix of shows and music from all over the world.

One of the new programs, for example, is “The Debate Show,” in which Education City students discuss current events with a live audience. The program will air from 7 to 8pm on Sundays and is hosted by local comedian Hamad Al Amari.

Other new programs include:

  • Connect, a weekly show about trending topics on social media;
  • Creative Endeavors, in which students and faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar explore how creativity enriches lives through interviews, discussions and events;
  • Inside Music, which will be produced and presented by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and educate listeners about the history of classical and world music; and
  • The Silver Screen, which will explore cinematography of classic and newly released movies through interviews with actors, directors and others.
Laura Finnerty

QF Radio

Laura Finnerty

Nabil Al Nashar

QF Radio

Nabil Al Nashar

Each will debut in English and Arabic.

QF Radio is also re-introducing the popular afternoon “Drive Show,” which will once again be hosted by Nabil Al Nashar from 3:30pm to 4:30pm.

Additionally, the morning show “Rise,” which Doha News is featured in once a week, has been extended again to two hours, airing from 6:30am to 8:30am with hosts Scotty Boyes and Laura Finnerty.

Trying again

Many Qatar residents – especially those stuck in traffic – have long complained that English-language radio stations here leave much to be desired.

One reason for this may be a lack of competition.

Dave Clausen/Flickr

In 2012, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage pledged to award more licenses to private companies to launch radio stations, following the passage of the new media law. But that law is still under consideration, and licenses remain difficult to obtain.

That leaves residents with a handful of options, including listening to Al Jazeera English on the radio, or tuning into QBS Radio. French station Oryx FM also plays the occasional English-language song, as does US-based Radio Sawa.

Due to the lack of listening options, when QF Radio relaunched in February 2013, the station received a warm reception. At the time, “shows on innovation, technology, sport and current events” were promised.

But less than a year later, most of the shows were taken off air. QF Radio officials did not comment on the move, but employees at the time suggested that management wanted shows to focus more on QF itself.

In that vein, Mohammed Al Beshri, QF’s Media Center manager, said in a statement that this season’s focus would be “to plant and nurture strong traditional values within the nation’s youth,” and one way of doing this will be to teach students how to produce and present their own radio shows.

No Justin Bieber

Speaking to Doha News this week, Boyes said that he was excited about the changes, and expressed confidence that the programming wouldn’t have to be retooled again.

Scotty Boyes

QF Radio

Scotty Boyes

“Of course, we’re all pretty nervous about how the audience will respond, but that just comes with the territory when you’re creating something from nothing and laying it out for everyone to judge…

The direction we are taking with the station is as a direct result of countless meetings and proposals with all concerned parties and QF management. I’m confident we are satisfying the vision of those involved in the decision making process and I think once the ball is rolling that QF Radio will be an asset to the community and to Qatar as a country.”

With regards to the music that will be played on the station, Boyes said that current pop hits wouldn’t be featured. He explained:

“You can expect a wide variety of music from around the world and various genres. For those looking for the latest Justin Bieber track, they will be disappointed….

But we are trying to strike a delicate balance of good music that is both entertaining and also teaches you something about the world, a people, and their culture. Ultimately, we are a talk radio station, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and keep people coming back for more with a wide variety of entertainment.”

Do you plan to tune in? Thoughts?

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QBS radio has banned one of its DJs from playing electronic dance music (EDM), Joe Mitri, host of show Vibetronics Sessions, has said.

Last night, the DJ complained about management’s decision in a public post on his Facebook page, telling fans that he will have to retool his show’s format. Mitri has since deleted the message, but not before it prompted some two dozen comments, many expressing disappointment at the decision.

It is unclear why EDM was banned. Nasser Ahmed Bilal, controller of the radio station’s foreign programs declined to comment on the matter, but a receptionist told Doha News “it was his (Bilal’s) personal choice.”

Mitri’s show – which is broadcast three evenings a week at 10pm – showcases his own mixes of club, trance and dance music. On radio website MixCloud, he describes the show as “a pure dance music education, 3 hours that brings the underground sound to the crowd of Doha City! Finally !”

Here’s Mitri’s post:

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Many of the DJ’s listeners responded to the message with support. Keith Anton commented:

“So much for opening up for the world cup?? A very sad day for musical art and culture and a big step back into the dark ages by Qatar. I am sure that the majority of the lovely citizens of Qatar are unhappy with this poor decision.”

Edgar Gomes added:

“I foresee a drop in audience on Wednesdays and Friday evenings for QBS”

And Mark Blow wrote:

“I thought Qatar was meant to be a progressive Arab country? So you can buy electronic dance music in Virgin Megastore, but we’re not allowed to listen to it on the radio?”

Notably, QBS is continuing to air acclaimed British Council music show The Selector every week. The show focuses on “underground” music styles, which, according to its website, includes “indie, dubstep, folk, soul, electro and everything in between.”  

Thoughts?

Credit: Image courtesy of Joe Mitri‘s Facebook page