Bruce Kay Guest Column #3:

Don’t Touch That Dial!
(If You Want to Live)

Report From Radio Free Baghdad
by Bruce Kay

Like everything here in Iraq , the start-up of the first Iraqi non-profit radio station, ‘Nationalistic Public Radio’ , has been , well, problematic.
First , the call letters, WIED – who came up with that?

Other issues? Well – starting the weekday programming with Mourning Edition, umm, it’s a show that just doesn’t lift the spirits.

Things do get a little better with the new call in game show. I think it’s the prize – Carl Kasell making death threats on your enemy’s answering machine – that makes it so popular. The show, Wait , Wait Don’t Kill Me, is composed of an interrogator questioning a (Shiite) contestant who has to get every answer right or, well, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t heard it yet. Anyway it’s a smash hit (with the the Sunnis.)

Another popular show is in English so it’s big with the US leadership. All Things Considered-Targets, is a lighthearted look at how US forces blow off steam ( and blow up everything else) but done with whimsy.

There is a variation on Car Talk over here that really took off. It’s a show that started out with a large audience of palm tree mechanics, but for some reason has lost a lot of its listeners. Regardless, Car Bomb Talk hosted by the Mohammadotti brothers, really strikes a cord over here .

Another feature, that travels well, is the hourly traffic/weather/shrapnel reports. Nothing gets you around traffic like knowing where each day’s craters have sprung up.

And who says the women here can’t be fashionable? The ladies have made Burka Today the fashionable show about, well, fashion. Hint: this spring, for eye holes, horizontal is all the rage!

Not surprising in this sectarian environment, the Kurds are setting up there own “KPR” station. Don’t know much about it, but it’s all alone, on the far end of the dial.

One final note, to counter what they see as the “liberal spin” of the Iraqi media, Fox News has announced their own radio station start up. It is said to be dedicated to broadcasting only “positive” stories from the war. My gut feeling, It won’t be on 24/7.

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