RAM FM appeals to Israelis and Palestinians

Ramallah station launched campaign seeking to show both peoples what they DO have in common: pop music.

madonna 88 (photo credit: )
madonna 88
(photo credit: )
The driving distance between PA-controlled Ramallah and Jerusalem is about 16 kilometers. But ask anybody who has been on both sides of the Green Line, and political views aside, they will generally agree on one point - the two neighboring territories may be geographically close, but culturally, socially, religiously and economically, a deep chasm separates the two societies. Seeking to bridge such a rift may be a daunting task, but it hasn't stopped 93.6 RAM FM peace radio station from trying. The one-year-old Ramallah-based station, which broadcasts its English-language programs to Israelis and Palestinians alike, recently launched an ongoing marketing campaign that seeks to show both peoples just what they DO have in common: pop music. Through a witty and aggressive marketing campaign, RAM FM has posted identical billboard advertisements in Ramallah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, all carrying the message "Music has no boundaries." The billboards, which are all in English to avoid any political undertones, depict enlarged sketches made out of "passport stamps" of easily recognizable superstars such as Bob Marley, the Beatles and Elton John. "The faces of the popular artists created by the passport stamps express the idea that music recognizes no borders. It brings out very strongly the message of the universality of music and its power to connect to people," explained Guy Bar, senior creative director at RAM FM. At a major Ramallah intersection, one of the billboards displays an image of Bob Marley, dreadlocks descending down his shoulders. Alongside the Marley sketch, a message in bold white letters over a red background reads, "A man can't be in more than one place at one time, but a song can. Music has no boundaries." "I think this is a great idea," said Glenn Jasper, managing director of the Israeli branch of Rudder Finn, a global PR organization. "For a station that is seeking to promote understanding between different cultures, it makes a lot of sense to use the same message of coexistence." The idea of sketching with passport stamps though, argues Jasper, could unintentionally hinder their message. "Bringing passports and nationalities into the picture is a tactic that could cloud the message of music without frontiers and instead end up bringing up nationality and political issues that could backfire. Then it becomes a matter of 'What passport do I have?' 'What people do I belong to?'" Bar, on the other hand, explains that the passport tactic seeks to intentionally provoke people to think about coexistence. "The passport as an icon," says Bar, "relates to each person, no matter where he lives. Passport stamps depict the reality of country borders and political strife. The juxtaposition with music, a universal love, shows just the paradox of divisiveness." Founded in February 2007, 93.6 RAM FM is a South African, English-speaking radio station in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The station, with studios in Ramallah and Jerusalem, is dedicated towards establishing dialogue and building a bridge between Palestinians and Israelis through contemporary music and the latest hits, talk shows, high-profile guest interviews, informational programming and news. The station was founded by South African Jewish entrepreneur Isaac Kirsh, the chairman of South Africa's Primedia Foundation. It projects a listening audience of 500,000 English-speakers from Gaza, the West Bank, east and west Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the coastal areas. RAM FM's ethos is based on the success of Kirsh's 702 Talk Radio in South Africa, which provided an edgier option to the state-controlled broadcast media during the apartheid years in order to encourage interracial dialogue. RAM FM was jump-started by an initial investment of $2 million, 25 percent of which was funded by Kirsh. It operates independently of any governmental or NGO funding and is a purely commercial enterprise that aims to become self-sustaining through advertisements.