Traffic & Violence: The Pakistani Radio Code


pakistanRadio and mobile phones are becoming an increasingly important part of life in Pakistan. While we here in the United States wait for our mobile companies to quit dawdling and put FM receivers as standard fare in all handhelds, over the ocean they have pretty much already done so.  Even the cheapest handhelds can receive the FM band.

I recently wrote about the U. S.  State Department embracing the use of radio and mobile in the ongoing propaganda battle being fought across both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now I’ve discovered another fascinating angle to radio use in that region of the world.

It all comes down to code. You see, there are huge restrictions on what can be broadcast as the government retains a hammer lock on information. As a result, radio announcers have had to exercise creativity in trying to get important news out. What better way than by speaking in code? Of course, you have to have the listeners able to translate the code in order to understand and in this Pakistani deserves massive kudos for they have pulled it off.

So what is this code you may ask? Traffic reports. I can’t say I know of an instance where traffic reports have provided such a  service anywhere. With gang violence, looting and other dangerous situations constantly occurring, people now turn to one of the few bits of news allowed by the government: the traffic reports.

The Center for Future Civic Media, a project of MIT’s Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies gives an example of this  in a recent report:

Later in the afternoon, the radio journalist Waqar Azmat advised drivers to avoid the area known as Gurumandir, “because the conditions there are not good, there is no traffic in the area.” A few minutes later, at 2:26 p.m., he returned to the airwaves to say, “traffic on Shaheed-e-Millat Road is very bad, as it is on Sharah-e-Faisal. There’s madness all the way until Tipu Sultan Road. Drivers should choose their routes carefully so that they don’t become victims of bad traffic.”

Apna Karachi FM 107 not only provided coverage but were also assisted by cell phone-enabled citizens all over the city. Several hundred calls a day would come into their offices from people scattered around town calling to report the “traffic situation.”

Now that is a creative ad vital use of the airwaves!

Image: thewazir / CC BY-SA 2.0

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One Response to “Traffic & Violence: The Pakistani Radio Code”

  1. Fahad Says:

    yes in pakistan Electronic media uses code to stay within the law while also providing all type of coverage ;

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