The name Geg Hopkins was pretty much the be all and end all of radio and production across the Gulf in 80s and even through until now really, although the aspects of the industry have changed considerably. I came in just after Graham Carter Dimmock, he of Episode Six the forerunners to Gillan, Deep Purple and on. Graham was Eagle Studios and was and probably still is quite brilliant and had an excellent radio voice, but left the area in the early 80s. Not only technically, but direction wise, Graham Dimmock knew exactly what he was doing and a hard act to follow. Everything he did sounded FAT and I still have the old 16 channel mixer he used out in my back shed. Wanna buy it?  So that was a sort of benchmark in the area for a while. Read more


July 2007 – Pro Audio Magazine
Virgin Atlantic obtaining rights to fly in and out of Dubai and Sir Richard himself making the all important personal appearance, immediately prompted a flurry of interest in anything else Virgin. In the case of the newly established Fujeirah Media with their license to open two FM stations out of the Emirate, it was more an egg before the chicken affair and ostensibly the idea of Mango Media Chairman Mekki Mahmoud Abdulla. By now a credible radio consultant, Abdulla was summoned and infrastructure started appearing with ideas on how to brand the English station. An approach was made to Virgin Radio UK, but this was the wrong camp as Abdulla found out and promptly set off in the other direction out to Singapore and Virgin Radio International. Abdulla has a real story to tell as far as Gulf radio is concerned having been instrumental in the establishment of many stations throughout the UAE and now owns Mango FM in Sudan. Born in Sudan to a Sudanese father and a British Mother, Abdulla now ‘sort of’ hails from Carnforth in Lancaster where he studied mass communications at Lancaster University. He even speaks with a Lancaster accent, mixed up with some Arabic overtones. Dividing his time between Dubai, Sudan and the UK, Abdulla quips: ‘I don’t know where I am from anymore.’ His primary desire was a job in media, but bizarrely started out selling exotic fruits in England way back at the turn of the decade in 1990, when he heard a radio spot advertising for salesmen.  In 1992 he joined ‘The Bay’ FM and got the bug, explaining: ‘I had a great Managing Director by the name of Julian Allitt, a man with a vision about radio and he spent a lot of money on training me using American trainers and he was very serious about his business.’ Taking the position of Sales Director, Abdulla started to think about where he could start a radio station other than the UK, which compared to the Middle East was so much more expensive. Having done some sales work with Abu Dhabi Television prior to his move to UK, Abdulla knew the UAE well and was discerning about the advances taking place in the Emirate. Squeezing not only his time, but also his credit card limit, Abdulla traveled back and forth from the UK to Dubai every weekend, sniffing out opportunity without much initial success.
One tedious venture that led to great disappointment Read more


The following article was penned July 2006 and destined for Pro Audio Middle East and Asia
The intrigue deepens as we go to press and by all accounts there is a possibility, although not exactly strong, that a Virgin Radio will hit the Dubai airways later this year. A pure Virgin seems unlikely but the twists and turns in this saga is akin to what happens in the Bermuda Triangle or why Sir Paul McCartney or U2 are musically so popular. Mysterious Rumours abound in a nearby Kingdom as well, that Shaikh Abdulla Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, he of Two Seas Records and Two Seas Studio fame, along with being Michael Jackson’s ex best friend, had talks with Virgin International. Those rumours are far from substantiated despite several enquiries made. Talk of the Ajman based Channel 4 FM approach fizzled out without any real credence or impetus, but there is still one serious contender flicking through the pros and cons of taking a Virgin on.  However, it is extremely unclear as to who is actually approaching who in this quagmire. The impression given is that Virgin is being approached rather than Virgin testing the water by initiating the contacts, although both scenarios appear to be the case.
Of course, the name Virgin is synonymous with Sir Richard Branson but he no longer owns Virgin Radio UK, but retains rights to the name and cleverly utilizes it with extreme judgment at every opportunity with astounding results. The Scottish Media Group Plc actually own Virgin Radio UK and is nothing to do with Virgin Radio Asia which is based in Singapore and part of Virgin Radio International which is still part of the Virgin Group. Are you still with us?  Virgin Radio Asia has one station broadcasting in Thailand with others in China, plus Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkatta set to become Virgins in the immediate future, as they link up with a leading Indian media group. Oui Fm is another in Paris along with the Internet based stations Radio Free Virgin out of the USA and this is all part of Virgin Radio International, so it is no surprise that C.E.O Ian Grace and C.O.O Mark Fisher are sniffing around Dubai and their neighbours, either invited or working on intuition.
Could Virgin exist in any Arab state other than Dubai?  UAE radio is a hot topic and it has taken the activity Grammy compared to any other country in the Middle East now.  A little bit of history is in order to explain the workings of commercial Gulf radio because it is nothing like the UK, Read more