I could not help but think of the “fireside chats” of the Great Depression as I walked through the modern France Bleu Roussillon (101.6 FM in Perpignan) radio station a couple of weeks ago. Radio host Virginie Saint-Clair gave us a tour of the station, which has a web site where people can listen to a live global audio stream. Saint-Clair told us that people call in from around the world to say hello.
The radio station’s number of listeners has grown in the past few years; it currently has about 70,000 listeners per day in the Roussillon region of France. This station provides the basics (general news, weather and traffic reports, and information about community events) and covers every away game of the Catalans Dragons.
The radio hosts are “like stars” in the community, Saint-Clair said, but they are humble and value their listeners.
I learned that the radio station was even more community-oriented than the France3 TV station I visited earlier in the week, although both are government-funded. This is probably because France Bleu Roussillon is a public-service radio station, but the dedication to the listeners still struck me. Saint-Clair described the way that the listeners become attached to the radio hosts. During emergencies — a fire or flood or storm — the hosts operate longer hours to keep the community updated. They talk to their listeners as friends, and listeners come to think of some hosts as part of their families.
Like Franklin Roosevelt and his “fireside chats,” this public-service, government-funded radio station in Perpignan reaches out to families and the community. While American radio stations try to build audience with contests, tweets and ticket giveaways, France Bleu Roussillon has developed a genuine relationship with its listeners through public-service programming and community involvement. Clearly, the radio station is regarded as an integral part of the everyday life of people of Perpignan.