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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jingles About Abuse Strike Chord

For listeners of Radio Provintsiya, at FM 73.4 in the Pyatigorsk region in the Caucasus, the jingles aired last month -- addressing issues of rape, child abuse and sex -- might have seemed to come from another part of the world.

In fact, they did.

But the exotic nature of the jingles -- a combination of information and music that is new to Russia -- did not corrupt their intent. Listeners raced to dial the telephone number announced at the end of each jingle, hoping to find out where to obtain help. Unfortunately, the telephone service run by a British charitable trust had not yet begun operating. But the enthusiastic response revealed that jingles might catch on as an effective and entertaining way to help people take charge of their lives.

"I don't know how many calls there were. ... It was enough people for the radio station to ring us [about the problem]," said Tim Williams, editor at BBC MPM Ltd. in Moscow, or the British Broadcasting Corporation Marshall Plan of the Mind Trust. "I think we've hit a niche with this," he said.

A set of 10 jingles entitled "The Law in Your Hands" -- the first in a series expected to run through early 1998 -- is currently being distributed by BBC MPM free of charge to radio stations throughout the country. Roman Ryabtsev, a popular musician of the now-defunct group Tekhnologia, introduces and closes each jingle.

One disquieting message features voices of child runaways interspersed with the sounds of shattering glass:

Child 1: "I ran away from home a week ago. I'm afraid to go back because my father will beat me immediately when I get home."

Child 2: "My mother was deprived of her maternal rights. Before the orphanage I lived with my aunt, but she beat me."

Child 3: "When I was still at home, Mama would hit me with a stick. She gave me a concussion. I ran away. I'm afraid of my mother. If they send me home, Mama will beat me again."

Ryabtsev finishes the piece by explaining: "Article 112 in the criminal code punishes child abuse with up to seven years in prison. If you have a problem at home, turn to the inspector of child protection in your municipality. For a free information booklet on your rights, call Moscow 250-1250 and leave your address."

The idea of airing jingles in Russia arose from a BBC MPM conference in 1995 during which Russian broadcasters expressed interest in shorter, less expensive forms of programming that would serve as an impetus for local reporting and discussion. Other issues covered by the current jingles include: rape, underage sex, military service and corporal punishment.

"It's a very good idea," said Lyubov Kravchenko, 21, a student at Moscow State University. "Many boys and girls will call after hearing this, especially in the provinces. It's very necessary."

But Kravchenko had reservations about the background music, which to her ears sounded like an obvious effort to relate to young people: "The music is rubbish," she said. "BBC is a good firm, but the logo BBC means that the music should be better, of a higher level."

Her friend, Violetta Zhmakina, lauded the content. "It's too bad that the initiative is from England, and not from Russia. But England is a country with many years of democracy," she said.

The jingles also earned praise from Zhmakina's mother, Yevgeniya Maximovna: "They must not be only for youth but for pensioners too, because they also don't know the law."

In fact, the jingles might even reach out to another audience -- the expatriate community -- in light of the recent traffic police crackdown on foreign drivers in Moscow.

"I am a practicing lawyer. I have not once come across a case in which all activities have been according to the law," says a calm, authoritative male voice. "From the moment a policeman approaches you, there immediately begins a cycle of violations of your rights. They don't tell you your rights. You must know exactly what your rights are before you ever come across a situation like this."