Riar Connects Memphis via Radio Waves

ANNA TRAVERSE, Special to the Daily News

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Ask Kiran Riar – settling in for a rainy Sunday afternoon shift on the air at Q107.5 – what got her into the radio business, and the answer might surprise you.

Her path to this radio booth spans decades and continents – and Indira Gandhi has a cameo role.

Riar’s grandmother in New Delhi had been widowed young when she propelled herself to a career supporting herself and her two infants. That career was at All India Radio – India’s public broadcasting station.

At that time – around 1965 – Indira Gandhi was India’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Riar’s grandmother was offered a spot on the air following a job interview with Gandhi herself.

A three-decade career at All India helped make it possible for her son, Riar’s father, to immigrate to Memphis.  He got a job at The Peabody, where, as luck would have it, Riar’s mother, whose family has been in the Memphis area for generations, was working already.  In a charming coincidence, today, The Q hosts weekly summer parties on The Peabody’s rooftop.

Riar recalls being transported by her grandmother’s tales.  Stories are what she loves most about broadcasting: “At its heart,” she says, “you’re just talking to people. You’re present while they’re in the car, in the background while they’re putting on makeup. You get to be a part of people’s lives.”

Personal connections are what inspire Riar most about radio.  And personal connections are why she believes local radio remains so vital. “Radio can help people through tough times,” she says, recalling a rare dark day when a friend’s voice on the air was a beacon.

Now at Flinn Broadcasting, Riar spends weekends as on-air talent at top-40 station Q107.5 (“The Q”) and weekdays working in programming and production for Sunny 103 / AM 1210.

The booth from which Riar broadcasts is snug, closet-sized.  A late spring rain outside is muted by black sound-absorbing foam lining the walls. Today’s programming – the music, the commercials – comes through a desktop computer adjacent to a sound board used to control levels manually.

Because it’s locally owned and operated, The Q can tailor its programming to local tastes and talent, while connecting listeners to the community.  The station has organized charitable efforts around town – like holiday wish-granting, and fundraisers for the families of fallen police officers.

And when the unexpected happens – like a recent windstorm over Memorial Day weekend – The Q can support its listeners by providing timely updates on everything from power outages and traffic conditions to which restaurants are serving and where to charge cellphones. It’s all part of the mission of connecting with listeners in a relevant, authentic way.

But Riar’s involvement with the station isn’t limited to the recording booth.  Lately, she has become increasingly involved in behind-the-scenes programming and production for Sunny 103 / AM 1210.  Programming, she says, is just another means to connect with listeners.

“There are more women on air than behind the scenes,” Riar observes.  She sees women’s roles in radio broadening.  And she believes the shift needs to continue—especially considering top-40 radio’s majority-female listenership. “I think it is only appropriate,” Riar elaborates, “that, if we are targeting a female demographic, we should have women making decisions.”

To that end, Riar takes part in Women’s Media Center program that aims to strengthen media representation for women. And she works with the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis to lend her voice in covering their events.

In a world that sometimes feels disconnected, it’s heartening to connect with a positive, young voice broadcasting right here in Memphis.

Kiran Riar is a graduate of the New Memphis Embark program. To learn more and start your application, click here.