107.6FM – Finally a radio station for women in Penang

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It is Malaysia’s only English radio station for women, and in March this year, Capital FM, which has 121,000 listeners weekly, ventured north to Penang (previously it could only be heard in the Klang Valley). But what exactly does a radio station for women broadcast? One might imagine fashion, beauty, celebrities and cosmetics. Think I’m stereotyping? Just flip open a magazine for women and you’ll see.

Stereotypes aside, obviously there’s so much more women are interested in. According to Star Radio Group chief operating officer Kudsia Kahar, it’s no easy task catering for women from all walks of lives – from pencil pushers to housewives to powerhouse ladies.

And perhaps what is rather surprising is for a radio station for women, men are tuning in in huge numbers. We catch the ardent Kahar on the telephone for an interview, and she reveals this and more.

How did the concept of a radio station by women for women come about? Was there a gap in the industry that needed to be filled?

Janice co-hosts Capital Breakfast, Capital FM’s morning show, which features candid conversations from managing your career to understanding men.

Of course. It’s not unusual to have a female-targeted radio station – there are many other countries that have done it. In Malaysia as well there was actually a radio station called Radio Wanita less than 10 years ago, but unfortunately it got shut down and its license sold to another broadcasting company. So, there was a gap that needed to be filled. Women haven’t been able to find the kind of content they wanted. The only broadcasters who addressed women as a target audience would be the TV stations through the afternoon or weekend programming.

But on radio, this is a growing group that needs to be addressed because they’ve got very different interests. When we set out to create Capital FM, we wanted to be the station that you use to escape the pressures of being a mum, a single mum, a working mum or a single woman. City living for women has a lot of added pressures and stresses compared to even five or 10 years ago, and at that time the concept of Capital FM was not so much to educate, but to be more of an escape, with a lot of wellness content such as our Eat, Love, Play segment.

Ashley hosts Capital Wave, the show that plays ultimate chill-out lounge collections.

Then, we started getting a lot of feedback that women actually want more meaningful conversations. They want to discuss the not-so-nice things. It’s not just about the red carpet and glamorous events and how to look great anymore, it’s now about issues such as violence against women, the pressures of being divorced and raising children as a single mum, HIV and how to tell our children about protecting themselves from sexual predators, for example.

Of course we can’t be addressing such heavy topics every single day – Capital FM would be very depressing for you to listen to because it would all be about death and gloom and violence towards women. So we balance it out – there are certain days that we set aside for heavier topics. Of course, this is based on research as well. You do not want to talk about death and gloom on Mondays – everybody hates Mondays – so the last thing you’d want to talk about is how you have to have a mastectomy, for example, on a Monday morning. It’s not exactly a pleasant conversation to have when you’re stuck in a jam along Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Tun Razak!

There is a science to it, even though people keep on saying that radio is not rocket science. There are a lot of feedback and lifestyle habits that have to be taken into the equation.

So how do you go about catering for the different types of female personalities out there?

That’s what we’re trying to address right now, by constantly amending and improving the kind of content we have. Sometimes the content is right but the timing is wrong. For example, the target audience may not be available for that particular content at that particular time, which means it’s back to the drawing board to find a time that is more convenient for them.

For Eat, Love, Play, we knew that we have the right time because women who are tending to their kids, who are “chief household officers” of their homes (chuckles), would’ve sent their kids to school by then, so they are a little freer to listen to and consume the information given via Eat, Love, Play. In the evenings, if you listen to The Jam Break with Non and Isabel, we are addressing the women who are driving home from work so there’s a lot about careers, asserting yourself, making yourself heard and getting your opinions valued at the workplace.

April Kuan hosts weekend programmes Jazzscapes and Global Passport.

On weekends, we understand that there’s a lot for women to do – single or married, mothers or non-mothers – so the feeling on Capital FM is very different. On Sunday nights, I also host Sunday Chillout, which is specifically curated – when I say curated, it’s because I choose every single song for the six-hour period – and designed for the first 90 minutes as a workout playlist. At Capital FM, we firmly believe that having a healthy lifestyle is really important, and even if you can only get off the couch or out of your busy schedule once a week during those 90 minutes to work out, we give you a playlist that is easy to move around with. After that, it gets on to a more relaxing mode designed completely to slow things down and de-stress you after 10pm.

That does sound like quite a bit of science...

(Laughs) There’s a lot of “intel” that goes into it. It’s a shame when people say, “Oh, you don’t talk about this,” because you’ll be amazed at how often we’ve actually had Syariah lawyers, for example, on air, talking mostly about Muslim women’s rights such as when their husbands ask them for a divorce. Just because a particular individual did not tune in on that day, the assumption is that we never talk about it. Actually, we do, several times, and we continue to make sure that we’re always engaging women and giving them access to information and experts.

For example, the first two weeks of MH370 going missing was a very hard time for everyone, and we talked about dealing with loss. How do you deal with it? What is the best preparation you can have if you suddenly lose someone? Capital FM was, I think, one of the very few stations in the country that actually got psychiatrists and psychologists in to talk about whether or not there was going to be an increase among women and travellers alike with a fear of flying because of this incident. We know that it’s not as sexy as talking about David and Victoria Beckham or the Kardashians, but that’s really not what Capital FM is about.

Do you run the risk of excluding male listeners, or can they also tune in to learn a thing or two about women?

Ika hosts Capital FM’s Groovedown from 8pm till midnight, Mondays to Fridays.

You’ll be surprised – over 40% of listeners are actually men, and we found out that it’s because of the music! These are men who are sick and tired of listening to the Top 40 stuff, because sometimes they tune in to other radio stations and it’s the same song on high rotation. It’s like a wall of sound. They want to listen to other stuff. The feedback that we’ve also received is that Capital FM is one of the stations hipsters listen to because, again, it’s not Top 40 stuff. That’s heart-warming for us to know. There’s also this rumour that men tune in because they want to figure out what women are all about (laughs) so if that’s the case, then it’s a very flattering thing.

I’m interested in gender parity in the radio industry. What is your opinion on the male-female ratio of producers and deejays? Is there an overwhelming dominance of either sex?

Where presenters – radio deejays, announcers or personalities – are concerned, research has shown before that males are more open to hearing other males as well as females, but women are slightly more critical of other women on air. Women can be very accepting of male voices, but the minute they hear female voices, they will be a little extra critical because they want that relevance. For example, if they can’t relate to a particular female announcer or deejay on air, it’s a turnoff factor, whereas they are a little bit more forgiving where a male deejay is concerned because to them, he’s not a woman, he doesn’t know any better. Relevance and being relatable are extremely important factors because you want to be able to feel that the female voice you’re listening to could be your sister, your mum, your best friend.

Non and Isabel placate the after-work rush hour stress with wit and bite-size information on The Jam Break.

What are your ambitions for the station?

We’d really like to be more than just a radio station for women. We’d like to be a partner for women who want to improve themselves and discover their best potential. I know it sounds a little bit cheesy, a little bit Oprah, but really, that’s our intent. We want to be your partner in finding the best version of yourself, in improving yourself, in discovering who you are.

Tune in to Capital FM on 107.6FM in Penang and 88.9FM in the Klang Valley.



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