Russian radio station sets its own path

It doesn’t seem like it was long ago. On March 1, “Novaya Zhizn” [New Life] radio appeared on 620 AM, ruining the hitherto existing monopoly of “Narodnaya Volna.” Today Russian-speaking residents of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have grown so accustomed to “Novaya Zhizn” on the air that they take as a given the diversity of programs and hosts, concise news summaries and interesting talk shows with a live connection to correspondents in different cities and countries.

On July 1, the situation changed yet again. “Narodnaya Volna” radio station, not wanting to hand over its advertisers, authors and listeners to its competitor without a fight, switched to daily, 24-hour broadcasting. How have the directors of “Novaya Zhizn” reacted to this measure? With a request to comment upon the current situation in the radio market, Russian Forward approached the president of New Life Broadcasting company, Nathan Liberman, and vice-president Alexander Rosbaum.

Hello, and thank you for finding the time for an interview with the Russian Forward. These are heated times, both in the streets and on the air!

Well, let’s make this clear from the outset. Our plans and programs do not depend in any way on what other businesses, mass media or any other people are doing. “Novaya Zhizn” has its own path of development, expansion and growth. For example, at the beginning of May we already had planned to increase the amount of broadcasting time substantially. As you probably know, we extended the airtime of “Novaya Zhizn” on Saturdays until midnight. We are planning to rent still more additional intervals of time. But the most important thing for us is not expanding our hours. The deciding factor for us is the quality of the programs at the time when they can be heard by the largest number of people. We already cover the best airtime with our programs. Even before opening “Novaya Zhizn” radio, we wanted to structure broadcasting so that listeners could get up, have breakfast, go to work or go shopping, come home and get ready for bed listening to the voices of our radio broadcasters. We have achieved that goal. Now we have entirely different priorities. We are working to create new programs, searching for authors and for creative ideas. We’re open to rational and interesting suggestions from Russian Forward readers, too.

Could you name your listeners’ favorite programs?

There are so many that I wouldn’t want to offend anyone, especially the regular radio hosts of “Novaya Zhizn”: Yaroslav Beklemishev, Victor Smolny, Mikhail Buzukashvili, Veronica Litvinova, Masha Shkolnik, Liza Kaimina. Listeners really like the live reports from our special correspondent in Israel; the talented, bright journalist, Victoria Moonblit. For her show, she invites Knesset members, Israeli actors, businessmen, publicists, government members, representatives of the army and police force and political party activists. “Gorodskaya Khronika,” the morning program of Russian Forward journalist Arkady Kagan about life in New York is interesting to people. Listeners want to know what’s going on in Albany and City Hall, news about crime, events in our community. The program of Muscovite Yuri Grigoriev, “Ach, anekdot, anekdot,” also can certainly be considered a hit. It’s on every Sunday morning from 11 to 12. Grigoriev asks the most famous Russian stage stars to come onto his show and tell an anecdote: Gverdtsitely, Dolina, Kikabidze, Kobzon, Agutin. There is a Friday program that’s popular, which has the participation of a journalist from “Ekho Moskvy” radio station, Natalya Botyanskaya, when we have a radio bridge from New York, Chicago, Moscow and 80 more cities in Russia. This program has had such resonance that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow even came to us with a request to broaden its use to change the negative image of America in Russia. Overall, we’ve gathered quite an amazing, young collective that meets the needs of listeners of all ages, professions and social strata.

Eighty Russian cities – that sounds nice! And what about contacts with Boston, Washington, Fairlawn, Los Angeles and Philadelphia?

We have the excellent programs of our California journalist, Sergei Rakhlin, about Hollywood and a radio bridge with Chicago. We are looking for a special correspondent in Washington, D.C.; our listeners should be getting news from the American capital.

“Jewish Radio” recently stopped broadcasting. Wouldn’t you want to draw thousands of listeners to “Novaya Zhizn” with new programs about Jewish culture, history and traditions?

We have programs by Rabbi Lev Katsin about Judaism and reports from Israel three times a week. But you’re right that we need a new program about Jewish life and culture. Right now we’re looking for an author of such a program.

How do you work with advertisers? In your opinion, what is the main distinction between “Novaya Zhizn” and other radio stations?

We are grateful to all of our advertisers for their material and moral support, loyalty and trust. “Novaya Zhizn” brings businesses effective results—new clients, patients and customers. It’s important to point out yet another side to our mutual relations with advertisers. We are not only business partners, but also friends. We are trying to establish personal relationships with Russian-speaking businessmen. To answer your question, I will stress: “Novaya Zhizn” radio broadcasters are not telling people how to live their lives, but simply sharing information with listeners. Our philosophy is simple: we are not for the people, we are part of the people. Our studio is located in South Brooklyn, in the heart of the immigrant area, and the managers and employees of our radio try to talk with Russian-speaking Americans as much as possible. Respect and goodwill—those are the most important, distinguishing qualities of our truly public radio station.

We are collaborating with all Russian-language mass media and with many English-language media as well; the newspaper Daily News, for example. We don’t push anyone out and we are not dividing people into “us” and “enemies.” Thousands of our listeners value that position.

Do you hold any contests, quizzes or lotteries?

On Sept. 7, “Novaya Zhizn” along with TV station RTV and RussianNY.com will hold a beauty pageant called “Miss Russian New York.” The contest’s jury will include representatives from Playboy magazine, the Daily News and New York Times and the Russian stage star Lolita Milyavskaya. Recently we had a children’s song contest on our radio called “Zvyozdny Shans.” The winner signed a contract with Warner Bros.

The last question, if it’s confidential, you don’t have to answer: How firm is the financial base of “Novaya Zhizn”?

It’s stable. We look confidently into the future, planning only to improve the quality of our programs and extend our broadcasting.

Well, “Russian Forward” wishes you the best of luck!

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