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The news-breaker strikes every time

Radio Tarana.jpgAnd it happens all the time-something happens somewhere and it becomes public knowledge, long before television presenters are able to face the camera.

Just as the May 2000 coup in Fiji did.

Radio Tarana was the first to flash the news across the world, so to speak and New Zealanders heard it fresh through this radio station.

“It was perhaps the greatest scoop that a small radio station could pull,” recalled Radio Tarana managing director Robert Khan.

“We pooled all the resources that were within our reach and with constant news feed, we were able to keep thousands of our listeners informed. We were also the main source, for a while at least, to the New Zealand media in general and Newstalk ZB, TV One and TV Three in particular,” he said.

The man who usurped a democratically elected government-George Speight-was unknown to the outside world until that fateful morning of May 19, 2000 and it goes to the credit of Mr Khan to have provided the first photographs to the world media.

The news of the coup outraged Fiji born Indians in New Zealand who were keen to register their protest.

Radio Tarana organised a meeting of the community with foreign minister Phil Goff at Auckland’s Domain on the following day, May 20.

More than 15,000 people attended the rally to voice their dismay and protest, proving yet again the power of a media organisation.

Mr Khan was keen to send a reporter to Fiji to report the developments first-hand but decided against it because of the increasing violence and threat to the lives of people, especially the Indian community.

But Radio Tarana was a beehive of activity for 56 days from May 19 when Speight held the country’s first Indian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his government hostage, often at gunpoint.

Mr Khan tapped the available resources-there were 30 reporters on and offshore-to bring the latest developments, threats, speeches and the efforts to end the imbroglio.

“The coup was a test to our ability. We brought not only the developments in and around the Fiji parliament in Suva but also covered press conferences, reactions of people, their fears and much more. Many of us did not sleep for days and nights and when we did, it was at the radio station,” Mr Khan said.

The coup remains vivid in memory and the people of New Zealand, the Fiji Indian community in particular, still talk of the services rendered by Radio Tarana.

There have been many other events, which the broadcaster brought to thousands of homes, rising to the occasion every time. The earthquake in Gujarat in India, the floods in Fiji and much more made headlines, keeping people informed.

“News content forms the core in broadcasting, in realisation of which Radio Tarana has exclusive arrangements with the BBC. A number of innovative ideas are being discussed to enhance the news value,” Mr Khan said.

The Indian Diaspora forms the backbone of the radio station, in the service of which community news and information also forms an important segment. Obituary, births, marriages and other social events are often heard on this station first before they reach the print medium. Mr Khan and his team are equally aware of the large sports following.

It is therefore not uncommon for Radio Tarana to broadcast live many soccer and rugby matches, providing in-house commentary wherever possible.

That is not all. As a part of the commitment to the community, the station also regularly broadcasts information on special offers on fruits, vegetables, spices and other household products. Experts provide advice on a variety of subjects, current affairs and issues affecting their lives. It is common for listeners to phone-in and seek information on the latest developments.

While music continues to be the heart of the radio station, Tarana has also positioned itself strategically to offer a complete bouquet of programmes to suit the entire family. A weekly slot kindles the intellect of children through easy-to-answer quiz items and general knowledge.

Just how it all began is in itself an interesting story. (See separate report).-VR

The above article appeared in our July 1, 2004 Tarana Eighth Anniversary Special.

Photo:

Radio Tarana was the first to tell the world of the coup in May 2000.

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