Op-Ed: QF Radio is dead, long live QF Radio.
August 31, 2016
By Nicholas Wong
In August 2015, I was offered a part-time producer position on a daily two-hour radio show that aired on QF Radio English called “Drive.” I was easy to recruit primarily because I was intrigued by the world of radio but also because in the run-up and planning stages of the show, I was given many opportunities to share my personal insight as to what segments would make the show interesting.
When the season launched in late October and early November that year, there were definitely kinks to work out. For one, the show had lengthened from one-hour to now two. In addition, there were now two show presenters, recent Northwestern University in Qatar graduate Jaimee Haddad and seasoned radio professional Nabil Al Nashar. Nevertheless, all in all, the show was well received by local listeners.
Even when Jaimee left QF Radio two months into the season to broaden her career horizons and we took on another talented NU-Q alum, Ruba Shaath, as her replacement, nothing stopped our stride. We saw a sharp increase in audience response, mainly through text and tweets and the occasional phone call from dedicated listeners. In one season, text responses increased from about 20 to 60 texts per episode. I never once felt like it was unrewarding. Many a time in university life you might see your effort go unrecognized, but QF Radio English was exciting everyday.
Imagine my surprise then when news trickled out that the station, all of QF Radio, was shutting down permanently. There I was, mid summer break back home in Singapore, when WhatsApp messages began rolling in. One listener who follows me on social media even asked me for clarification—clarification that I did not have.
The permanent staff were sent a clinically sterile email which stated that QF Radio had achieved its seven-year goal of “communicating the QF story and vision” and that the station would now enter a “transitional period” until it goes off the air permanently in October 2016. The uncontracted staff such as myself and Ruba received no official confirmation, such as an email or phone call, about the decision. Instead, we learned about it through Doha News.
When Ruba, the “Drive” show co-host, found out through the murmurings on WhatsApp, she was shocked. The message exchange between us went along the lines of “Are you sure?” and “Is this really happening?”
The next few summer days went along in a fugue state as the people we knew at QF Radio’s English side began turning speculation into fact. Ruba herself, who was waiting for a contract, was left in the lurch. “I was shocked and a bit hurt if I’m completely honest,” Ruba told me. “Shocked because I had no idea that this was happening, nor did we receive at any time a heads up. I felt hurt because this was my career. I put all my effort into the previous season and had even started planning for the season to come before I knew it would be shut down.”
But Ruba was not the only one affected by this—I am aware that Roger Prior, producer of the morning show “Rise,” had been waiting for a contract for a year. Previously, he had been a radio producer in the United Kingdom. His work at QF Radio English was exemplary.
If I can think of any tragedy from this, it’s that some people (I’m not saying all) were not recognized for going above and beyond in their work. The “Rise” show was something to emulate. The producers and hosts treated the job with pure professionalism (primarily because many of them were actual professionals and not student interns). They were particularly impressive when they had serious prizes to give out as part of the radio station’s competitions. I remember helping them out during a Grand Hyatt weekend giveaway and was amazed at the quality of their on-air game. But QF’s decision to close the radio station, with no prior warning or hints to its staff, makes clear that their talents were not nearly as appreciated as they should have been.
What we are left with is a bounty of half-truths and hearsay reasoning about “budget-cuts” and “corporate right-sizing” that sees QF Radio as a luxury. In this last season, from what I could see, QF Radio English was on its way up. Yet it has been left answerless in its best year yet.
Nicholas Wong is a journalism junior at Northwestern University in Qatar, who worked at QF Radio as a part-time producer and presenter.
Opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Daily Q.