DHAKA: RJ Kebria is one of the most famous social influencer and well-known name in the FM radio industry in Bangladesh.
He started his career in 2006 with Radio Today as a radio host. Since then, the audience favorite has been working in the industry for over 14 years. Currently, he is the station-in-charge of Radio Amber and executive producer of Dhaka FM.
All of his programmes are oriented towards the reality of life and welfare of the society.
“Jiboner Golpo” (Story of people's life) hosted by him is one of the most famous programmes of Bangladesh radio industry. Recently RJ Kebria joined Banglanews team for an exclusive interview. He answered questions about his current state of affairs, future plans, as well as personal life.
How are you doing during Covid-19 pandemic?
For the nature of our career, we cannot afford to stop working and stay home. I am doing regular office while taking all safety measures. We are still busy with work 24/7.
Which program are you working on now?
‘Secrets’, ‘Jiboner Golpo’ and ‘Tarar Raat’. ‘Secrets’ is being broadcasted every Sunday at 11pm, ‘Jiboner Golpo’ every Wednesday at 11pm on Dhaka FM.
And ‘Tarar Raat’ is being broadcasted every Saturday at 10pm on Dhaka FM and Radio Aamar at the same time.
You started your career in 2006 and spent 14 years in the radio industry. How does it feel when you recall your long journey?
It feels like we have passed a golden time. The past was very challenging, the present is still challenging and the future will be more challenging.
My career stands on my 14 years of works in radio and nine years in television. We started working when the golden age of ‘Bangladesh Betar’ was lost and people forgot about radio. It was a turning point of the radio industry in Bangladesh.
It is hard to say that the situation of our current radio industry is the same as it was before.
Not only radio but also the TV industry are facing criticism about their current states. Social media and the internet played a major role here.
Does that mean people are losing interest in entertainment?
No, people did not lose interest in entertainment or content. They are losing interest in the mediums of entertainment. For example, people are still interested in movies but whether they will continue to go to movie theaters is in doubt. Maybe instead of going to theaters, they are watching movies using Netflix or other platforms.
Similarly, people used to listen to music through radio in the past. Now they are using smartphone apps for that. So people are still listening music but the media is now altered.
That is why, I think we have to upgrade the radio and television industry to digital and internet-based format.
What is your view about the success of your shows?
The programme ‘Secret’ that I host is mainly a new version of my old program ‘Jaha bolibo Sotto bolibo’.
When I started this programme, I focused on bringing up some people who made grave mistakes in life, or committed serious crimes and faced punishments. Sometimes, they got no punishments but it resulted terrible personal losses. We decided to focus on these matters so that people never make the same mistake.
So far, it was a very successful stride. Such stories are being told in the industry for over 7-8 years. Murderers, inmates, rapists, drug dealers, criminals, willfully came to the programme and confessed to their crimes with regret. They talked about every details such as motives, mistakes, and the repercussion of committing those crimes.
These stories impacted millions of lives and created a revolution. I get countless emails stating that this show changed their lives and stopped them from committing crimes.
Radio industry is passing a tough time now. What is the future of radio hosts?
It is scary for two reasons. The first is- what will be the advertising situation after the Covid19 pandemic? And the second is contents.
If the contents fail to attract audiences, then we cannot give sponsors a good reason to pay us for advertisement? Almost all radios are now making similar contents. No innovation or uniqueness can be found. If someone brings a new idea in the market, everyone else is instantly doing copycat. Moreover, the entertainment methods are being shifted quickly. To be honest, I don't see a future for this industry at his moment.
If that is the case, then what are your career plans?
Mainly, we have to fight the battle from where we are now. People like me, who worked their way up to this position, have some responsibilities for the audience and the radio industry.
We cannot give up just because I cannot see any positive scenario right now. Let's see what happens. Because if the radio industry dies, it will not only affect my career but also affect everyone else working with radio.
Another strategy can be based on the fact that when there are people, there are stories. People wants to hear those stories. What I have been working for the last 11 years is “People and the story of their lives’. These stories are the most viral contents in social media. That means I have no problems with creating contents. Maybe I just have to change the medium.
With the help of your platform, you sometimes invite your audience to support helpless people. How much support do they actually get?
Let me give you an example with one of my last shows. There was this kid who just passed the higher secondary exam and lost both his hands and feet after suffering from an electrical shock. We found him begging with his mother on Dhaka streets. His family provided him treatment with money acquired by mortgaging their house and land.
The boy could get back his home and start fresh again if they could pay back Tk 7 lakh debt. After coming to my programmme, we managed to gather Tk 9 lakh and 55 thousand within only three days. This is not the only example. We have changed the lives of many people in the last decade.
However, this is not the achievement of one-day work. It took me more than a decade to build this community.
One of your program named ‘Lost and Found’ drew mass attention. What is the update of that programmme?
With this programmme, I tracked down people who got lost from their families long time ago. There are even examples of people finding their family members who were lost before the Liberation War of 1971.
I made 12 episodes of this programme and I returned eight people to their families. I have big plans for this programme. My primary goal is to find at least 100 lost people and return them to their families.
Most of your shows are based on people's lives. What is the reason behind it?
This topic is like an ocean. It never gets old for me, not even for the audience. That is why they have been watching this same content for the last 11 years. But every episode of my show is unique and hard to anticipate. From the that point of view, I think this is the best work. Besides, as far as I am concerned, such work has not been done anywhere in the world. With every episode, comes fresh story of an unknown person. This is unprecedented.
Your shows get viral on social media frequently. What is your most viral one so far?
I produced an episode on a policeman named Shawkat. In just five months, the total view of that show reached 15 million and the total number of reaction reached 4,42,000 with 2,00,000 shares. I don’t know about any other show that went so viral in the history of the radio industry.
You have been working in the radio industry for over 14 years. What did you gain and lose?
I care little about loss and gain. I always say that I am just a simple man from a small village. I was raised in a family who had almost nothing. My father was a simple government employee. From there, I got admitted to Dhaka University and earned first-class in honors and masters in Public Administration department. That was a big achievement in my life.
When studying in Dhaka University, I took part in a debate competition. Many praised my vocal and voice. My friends used to work in media and I got connected. After that, I tried my best to work with devotion and patience. Alhamdulillah for whatever Allah has gifted me. I got fame, money, and love of people. I very am happy with it.
Where do you want to spend the last days of your life?
I can’t tell in advance where destiny will take me to but I hope to spend the last moments with soil and plants. I will spend my time on farming. If Allah allows me, I will make a farm and spend my last days with it. I also want to make my studio and work with creative arts. However, I will work in radio-television as long as I can sustain.
Can you provide enough time for your family despite your busy schedule?
I have a daughter, her name is Madiha, and she is 1.5 years old. My wife is a housewife. Her mother lives out of Dhaka. Whenever I get the chance, I spend time with my family and play with my daughter even though I can't do it very often. After all, they are my whole world.
BDST: 1914 HRS, JULY 7, 2020