DJ Annah Jacob hosts the afternoon edutainment show Hits and Homework on the UAE’s only radio station dedicated to children, Pearl FM. Ms Jacob, from India, was born and raised in Dubai. While she graduated in engineering, she moved on to advertising, securing her big break in the media industry in 2009, working as a presenter and segment producer for Dubai One. The 33-year-old later worked as a DJ for Virgin Radio, joining Pearl FM when it launched in October 2014. The station, which broadcasts on 102FM, will be launching an Arabic sister station later this year.
Despite working in radio, if you actually see me on any given day I’m usually quite dressed up, which means I spend some time putting on my make up and doing my hair. It’s not so much a narcissistic exercise as more like power-dressing. When I have my make-up and hair on, then I’m ready to take on the world.
I don’t eat breakfast, so a cup of coffee and I’m out the door. I’ve got myself a nice little Toyota Yaris, its very whizzy. I live in Tecom so it only takes me 10 minutes to get to our studio in the Al Jalila Cultural Centre for children, which is just off Al Wasl road. I’m from Kerala but grew up in Dubai watching American television, so that’s where my American-style Dubai accent comes from. A lot of Dubai-raised kids tend to have it.
At work, the first thing I do is go around saying hello to everyone and asking how they are. Then I go through emails, which might be from schools, parents or other members of the Pearl FM team to discuss content on the show or upcoming meetings. I also get in touch with parents to see whether their children would like to feature on the show.
I start working on our social media. I track our videos and posts – the kind of feedback we’ve got and how many hits we’re getting. It wasn’t the easiest thing to move to children’s radio, especially when you’re a grown-up yourself. But I think going to the schools has been the biggest help. We organise school visits at least once a week, which I have a hand in coordinating. The schools get about 15 to 20 students from grades three to seven in a room with us for about two hours, to talk to us about music, movies, toys, YouTube stars, issues they’re facing, what they don’t get about grown ups … it all helps us to translate their interests into content for our shows.
I pick up some lunch; it’s usually rice and curry, because I love it. We’ve got a really great outdoor area where the studios are, so when the weather is nice I sit outdoors. Lunch is my me-time when I focus on myself. I have my phone with me and spend time going through my own personal social media stuff.
I sit down and start prepping for my show, Hits and Homework. I’m looking at content and downloading audio files I’ll need to use. I’ve been running the show since Pearl FM was first launched. It’s a prime slot, so I couldn’t say no. We now have over 100,000 children listening in to the show, according to research done by Ipsos, which I’m pretty pleased with.
My show goes live. This is the time when the kids are on their way home or to after-school activities, or doing their homework, so I also give homework tips every now and then. It’s the kind of stuff that I should have listened to when I was in school. We talk a lot about games, music, movies, things that are relevant to the six to 12-year old demographic that I am talking to. But it’s the nine to 12-year-olds who are keen on calling in, as they’re a little bit more confident. My favourite part of the day is when I get call-ins to the show. It makes you feel like someone cares about what you just said. Let’s face it, when you’re in radio, actually saying something that resonates with your audience is all that matters, right?
My show finishes and then we do non-stop music, which is vetted to make sure its safe for little years. I’m usually the last and only person in the studio, because most of the other guys will have left by around 6pm. I switch the lights off, close the doors and I’m off to the gym to get my workout in.
I grab myself a light dinner, possibly with friends. I like playing board games in the evenings, or going to an event – I rarely stay at home.
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