Dubai: Inside Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children, where youngsters are taught to be creative, a UAE radio station is giving a voice to children by allowing them to express themselves and be a huge influence to others of their age.
Pearl FM, the region’s only children’s radio station, which is broadcast in Dubai on the 102.0 frequency band, has come a long way since it was launched in 2014, reaching hundreds of thousands of children and their parents with topics related to every aspect of a child’s life, from health, safety, society, culture, education, and, most recently, the rights of children.
The radio station, which parents have described as a ‘ground breaking’ initiative, is being seen as the ideal platform for children with an array of talents to connect with other listeners their age and positively influence their life.
A number of talented children have been approaching the centre to volunteer in live shows or have been invited as voice over artists to record tips on safety or conservation, or even to create sound bytes on the occasion of Eid.
Radio presenter Hussain Al Atoli, who handles a newly launched show called ‘The Talk’, which focuses on spreading awareness about children’s rights and the laws that protect children, told Gulf News that the Pearl FM has helped give children more confidence, nurtured their hidden talents, and allowed parents to grasp what their children are passionate about.
“Once a child gets to hear their own voice over the radio, their face expression changes. They instantly become more confident and feel like they want to contribute more. Many have incredible storytelling talents, which only appeared after they recorded for the radio,” Al Atoli said.
Broadcast 24 hours a day in English, Pearl FM, targeting mostly listeners below the age of 12 and also parents for some shows, ensures the language on shows is children-friendly and the live shows can both entertain and benefit children, Al Atoli said.
Speaking about his show, which invites experts and specialists to discuss issues relating to the social, educational, health and legal aspects of a child’s life, Al Atoli said it has been specifically created to target parents and guardians and raise awareness mostly on the cultural and social rights of children.
“Our society is not very well aware of the laws that protect children in the UAE. Over the years, the Child Law in the UAE has expanded to protect the child in almost all circumstances. In the show, we raise interesting topics about the laws that protect children at school, at home and when seeking medical help, for example.”
The show, which is broadcast three times a week between 2pm and 3pm, has been designed to make child laws understood in a simple way and easily communicated to the audience, he said. “We have also collaborated with a prominent law firm, which sends law experts over to the programme, to discuss and explain the fines and punishments for those who break different laws under the Child Law.”
Other pressing issues related to either the health of children and psychological challenges that children face as a result of parental divorce are also discussed on the show. Child abuse, bullying and cyber bullying were other important topics discussed. “On Sunday the show focuses mainly on the laws protecting children. On Tuesday, we have topics on health and psychology of a child, while on Thursday the show is more casual, inviting parents to speak about various topics about children that relate to listeners.”
He said a society that becomes well aware of the Child Law will ensure children are better protected.
What children think
Two out of the many young radio stars at Pearl FM who took part in live shows and voice-over recordings said the radio station allowed them to share their thoughts on topics that matter to them.
Mishal Faraz, 9, from India said: “I like to spread awareness about the environment and it was wonderful going on air knowing so many children would listen to my tips. I’ve shared my thoughts on food wastage, reading and other important topics. In the future, I want to continue in this field.”
She said she also loved the supportive environment provided by the radio station.
Oscar Merit, 11, from France said his interest in radio started in school where he launched the school’s radio for the first time. “I’ve been invited to the radio many times to do some voice-overs and recordings. I did not feel nervous, instead I was happy and confident to be on air.”
Faraz’s mother, Iram Rizvi said the experience being on air “boosts the morale and confidence of a child”.
“It’s a very brave initiative and teaches children many lessons. As mothers, we used to worry about what children listen to but now we feel at ease.”
There are two other main programmes on the radio that appeal to children the most, Al Atoli said. “Before going to school, thousands of children tune in for the ‘The Breakfast Club’ show presented by Saif Ali and after school for the ‘Hits and Homework’ show presented by Annah Jacob. Many children also call the radio as they tune in.
“We also have 17 different recorded segments broadcasted throughout the day with short historical facts, conservation and road safety tips including a Naps and Nursery segment for mothers with toddlers. Popular songs are also carefully selected before [they are] broadcasted and are filtered when needed.”
The station currently has over 200,000 listeners and will be launched in Arabic on a different frequency, according to Al Atoli, making it the first Arabic language station for children in the region.
Pearl FM keeps its young audience clued in on everything from their rights to conservation to culture