June 07, 2011

Shock Exclusive: Merge FM Launch Fails to be Awful

As previously promised, I have to give some feedback on Muscat's new English-language radio station - Merge FM.  This is particularly important as they have already bribed premium Omani blogsters SytheNadia and Mimi with money and shiny things.  The aforementioned are therefore not really in a position to comment.  To be fair, Sythe has permitted me to to post some fairly snide comments next to his advertisements, and Mimi has graced MurjEffem's first advertisement with a post about FGM (more on that subject later by the way), demonstrating typically splendid integrity.  Still, you can't trust the payroll vote, can you?  An independent voice is needed.  One untainted by financial incentive (however bribe-friendly he might be in priniciple).  Enter The Linoleum Surfer.

So, there I was, up at seven a.m. which is basically night time for me, to listen to the fat Evertonian on whose milky shoulders the hopes of the station rest.  And alas, I was a bit disappointed.  I had hoped, after all this build up, to say that it was all terrible. Ill-conceived.  Shambolic.  And it wasn't.  I promised to call it like it is, and unfortunately it's....OK.

Slow start I thought.  I guess when it's early morning, you've probably been up all night and you're the boss so it's doubly your fault, the stress must be severe.  And it was a tentative, timid and dull performance for the first hour or so.  But once he'd got into it I think Mr Fisher did OK.  New show, new station and new to Oman, but he'll get into it.  The basic competence in knowing what he's doing and the desire to be light-hearted and chatty as a breakfast host should, is all there.  Basically, one day in, this is now the least bad breakfast show in Oman.  It's a good place to start, and I think it's going to get better.  The music is certainly a welcome diversity compared to the other commercial station.

Moving on, I caught a bit of Rumaitha's show at lunchtime, and this is a clincher: this girl clearly has no experience whatsoever, but I don't object at all.  She's smart, she's got a nice personality and the confidence to push on through the little stammers and hesitations and get the job done.  The important thing is, she's Omani.  Given a chance, on day one, to just get on with it.  Good for her.  I hear a rumour that she follows this blog so let me be the first to say: Well done Rumaitha, you did fine and you're going to be great.  

That difference in attitude is really welcome - putting Omanis front and centre from the beginning.  Sure, it's still a station built by and around former provincial British DJs who never quite made it big and drifted off to one of Dubai's myriad craphouses.  But unlike Hi, they're not targeting British expatriate 18-25s with learning difficulties as their exclusive market.  If they can manage a voice that Omanis don't feel is patronising them, they will do just fine, and so far so good.  Just don't let the Brits talk about pubs and the Premier League all the time please.  There is a world beyond Dover, and now they're in it, they should talk about it...

As I type, the afternoon chick with the funny name is on.  Jury's out, she's nervous too and doesn't really have anything to say.  But no reason to write her off just yet, and again the music's a good mixture.

Overall it's a "C" today then for Merge FM.  Which isn't bad at all for a first day, and I'm sure they'll get better.  By GCC standards it's all been perfectly competent so far, which means by Oman broadcasting standards it's top of the class.  I do wonder whether all the radio stations make the same mistake though: if you try to serve everybody a little, you end up serving nobody well.  Still, with that caveat, Merge is the best of the bunch.  There, I said it.  I was prepared to stick the boot in, but they don't deserve any kicking just yet.  Well done.

During that turgid first hour though, I did have a spin across the dial to check out the competition and refresh my memory.  Hi FM was hideous, over-caffeinated blethering and relentlessly upbeat chart hits.  That Darren chap actually seems very nice, but the show and style is just so generic it might as well by a syndication.  From a hospital.  But here's the main competition to Merge now in my mind:  there is something special about Oman FM.  No really.  Any DJ who can go from Creedence Clearwater Revival straight into a full length club re-mix of J-Lo's "On The Floor", and then cut it off half way having just realised how long and inappropriate it is, must be special.  Sure, Merge has a much more diverse playlist than Hi (thank you!), but Smokey's "Living Next Door to Alice"?  The original?  That's Fike-on-the-Mic territory.  And listening to the Fikester chuckling about a smutty story he's read in The Sun about Ryan Giggs, while he's decided he can't share what it's actually about on the show, is gold.  Bizarre, surreal, staggeringly improper gold.  I was grinning from ear to ear listening to Fike.  Probably for all the wrong reasons, but grinning nevertheless.  Work on that Merge FM and you might just win me over for real...

P.S. One small criticism to the Merge community: your website has a couple of dead links and several typos/mistakes.  On launch day.  Not good - get someone else to proofread this stuff for you; your in-house team don't write well enough themselves.  Sorry.  Good luck though.


Polyvinyl Chloride Boogie Boarder said...

The shame about blogs is that any bloody moron can write one.

You sir, are a baboon!

First of all, you rant off about cutting down the football premiership stuff, then a few paragraphs later, you claim Faik is 'tha bomb' for talking about Ryan Giggs.

Don't slate everything like you are an expert. You have a blog. These guys have a station... better yet... they get paid to talk about stuff on air and to have you blog about them!

Finally, how about posting your name up here, buddy? Anonymity leads a lot of no-hoper Joe's to think they are special.

Oh, here is something for you... I am writing 'negatively' about you, and 'defending' Merge... so by your astounding powers of deduction... let me guess... I'm a MERGE employee! Surely?


I just like boogie boardin'!

Oman Collective Intelligence said...

Nice post with a good analysis (surely they’ll double check the spelling on the site) however just a small note from my side; I wouldn’t use the word ‘bribe’ when getting other bloggers involved in spreading the message; call it sponsorship, call it advertising, call it whatever but bribe is out of place in my opinion. Oh, and the afternoon presenter, Sayeh, she started an hour ago...let’s give her time…:)

Oman said...

I heard it (all music test I expect) last night while zipping through the Raddison - where they have a stand or something .
I liked Rumaitha and how good to have an Omani - and female.
The music mix is good - but the usual send a text to boost the bank is a drag.
Good to have an alternative to jump through the stations with

Anonymous said...

TLS, talking of typos, it's Faiq (al Mughairy)*, not Fike, unless you were just being funny. And I've always thought - since the days when Oman FM was the only English language station in those parts - that his slightly inept casualness is part of his 'brand'. Much more in keeping with Muscat than Hi's trashy UK style, and it works.

I live a long way away now, but will see if I can get Merge online.


* one of those Omani boys brought up in the south of England

Balqis De Cesare said...

Pietrangelo Buttafuoco said that internet is like the walls of public toilets : any Tom, Dick and Harry can write on it
I would add that same goes for those who read and comment :P
I'd definitely change the bribe term, but would go deeper into the subject with some other post, because sponsorship must stay out of blogs and social networks
We've had enough of sponsored Arab springs and helped military coups, let alone of monetised posts :)
I saw a couple that were really a shame

Anonymous said...

I suggest that if you disagree with blogs as a form of social comment, don't read them. It's really refreshing to read educated, well written opinion. Freedom of speech is invaluable, whether you agree with the comment or not. Thanks for your thoughts Linoleum Surfer.

TripleTee said...

it's a good analysis and something merge can totally work on.

a 'you're great in all matters' even though it may not be true will not help them improve.

over all I believe TLS's post was very constructive so either chill or bugger off (talking to the one with the first comment)

I find merge to have beat all FMs in Oman so far. so that's definitely progress.

oh and Rumaitha... confidence lady! You're doing just fine. You just need more confidence.

I like Sayeh too :)

haven't heard much of Mr. Fisher in the morning. Hope to do so tomorrow morning.

The Linoleum Surfer said...

Thanks for all the comments.

PVCB, if this is how you respond to a positive review, I'd hate to see what you'd think of a negative one. Aren't scousers supposed to have a good sense of humour? (Yeah, it is that obvious...) Anyway, just to reinforce the point, I like the overall objective of the station, your show's the pick of the bunch already and this channel is already ahead of the others on day zero. The future's bright...so why so sensitive?! I was expecting it to be awful. It wasn't, and I said so. By the way, I've been dealing with the media in Oman and elsewhere in the region for about fifteen years, and have done radio here too. As an "expert" I'd advise you to correct any errors but avoid picking fights with independent commentators who are both patient and unstoppable. I do wish you well though, truly. :)

OCI - the word "bribe" is only teasing...to be seen in the context of previous banter. No insult or accusation is implied, only satire. A commercial advertising arrangement is no crime, and I don't expect to see the Times of Oman saying anything critical about Toyota any time soon either, know what I mean? As for the small mistakes on the website etc., well yeah, you'd think. ;)

Anon 1: Yeah I know it's Faiq/فائق, just the way he says it, and I agree that part of his brand is exactly what I find so enduringly appealing! (Isn't that what I said?)

Thanks for the observations one and all. :)

AmasE°♥ said...

loooooooool give them sometimes dude...

The Linoleum Surfer said...

What?! I was nice! I expected them to be bad, they weren't and even their debut show was better than the competition. What do they want, flowers and a movie? ;)

The Linoleum Surfer said...


Look, I've just read all this over again and although you're daft to go off on one (especially as I've basically said something positive overall), what I've written about you personally is a bit dismissive and harsh. It's the price you pay for being the figurehead, but still, I've no intention of attacking anyone personally - just yanking the chains - and I apologise if I've upset you.

You don't know me, I don't know you, I've no grudge against you or your show and like I said (I think), I'm actually pleasantly surprised and supportive of your station.

So don't take offence, it's not necessary and won't do you any good. No insult is intended, just a bit of banter, and I will be listening tomorrow too...


♥ααℓiα♥ said...

I think that's the same Anonymous who always goes off on any little thing I've written (either on my Blog or others) LoL

Omani Jewel said...

to the Omani DJ's well done... make your mark ... we are supporting you yaaaay!!!