Culture & History

Getting Through Traffic with an Oasis on the Frequency Band

Amid the relentless noise broadcast over the airwaves, lies an oasis of frequency modulation for radio listeners in their cars, and online

Vintage Radio on a table

People who spend time worrying about the large number of monopolies in Mexico should perhaps check out the cut-throat competition for listeners on the morning radio news shows in the capital, which take to the airwaves around 5:30 a.m. and don’t let go of them until 9 or 10 a.m. Then they start up again around 1 p.m. for an hour or two and repeat the same drill in the evening.

You might imagine this would lead to a well-informed population, although the programs appear designed primarily to make sure you get to work twice as neurotic as you would have done had it just been the heavy traffic, and not also the frantic flicking back and forth through the radio stations as you navigate your way around an inordinate number of advertising breaks.

Amid this on-air array of news, phone-ins, trash music, noise, and seemingly endless and fruitless discussion on “topics of the day” fit to cure insomnia, lies an oasis of frequency modulation.

Radio Universal—88.1 FM* in Mexico City, and also available online—has two hours a day of Beatles music and trivia—8 to 9 a.m., and 1 to 2 p.m.—a harking back to the 1970s when “Beatles hours” were as frequent and as competitive as today’s news.

Back then, when English was less widely spoken, The Beatles were referred to as Los Beatles and shamelessly pronounced Los Beetlays. Now that the cuarteto Liverpool is making a bit of a comeback among the savvy Internet generation, the group is pronounced more like Beadles—probably the U.S. influence.

This doesn’t mean a return of Beatlemania, but rather that any iPhone worth its salt is expected to have at least a smattering of retro bands and in that sense, a member of the earphone set will happily concede that the Beatles had “buenas rolas“—and perhaps in the same breath ask: “John Lennon was one of the Beatles? Oh. I thought so.”

* For decades, Radio Universal broadcast on 92.1 FM until 2016 when the frequency changed.  The exact reason why is unclear, although it appears related to the term of the contractual frequency concession, which ended in June 2016.  Frequent listeners and fans won’t mind the frequency change, and in these days of digital airwaves, where people listen online and in-car radios automatically scan the networks and display key information like the station name, it probably won’t make much difference anyway.

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