World Radio Day

Opinion: Radio remains the most widely accessible form of media - William Bird

The other day it was national beer day, I suspect there is a unicorn day as well- given the number of commemorative days there are, it may be surprising to learn that February the 13th is World Radio Day.

Perhaps of greater consequence is to ask why World Radio Day is worth thinking about.

Radio matters for a range of reasons. For one thing, it remains the most widely accessible form of media for people across the world. It can cross borders and be used to spread information - or disinformation in ways that other media seldom reach or match. It can reach marginalised communities, the poor and the vulnerable.

For those without devices or who cannot afford access to the internet, radio may be their only core information source.

Radio is also able to be in places other media struggle - you can listen while you drive, while on public transport. Sure, you can read, but not while driving.

Listening to the radio can set you up for the day with your favorite music, or ensure you have heard views and news so you know what’s happening. The ability for radio to be there while we do other things like preparing a meal, wake up, wash, dress and party, means that it has been in our personal space long before any digital device.

Indeed some may argue that unlike digital devices, finding the balance between real life and consuming content wasn’t nearly as difficult.

Radio has another strength. As much as people celebrate the notion of the internet and access to information being free and a fundamental right, radio has almost always been freely available.

This is not to suggest that radio hasn’t or isn’t also subject to significant censorship or manipulation. Radio’s power means it has been used for both good and the vilest purposes, from propagating Nazi fascism in the second world war to inciting genocide in Rwanda and seeking to enforce Nationalist propaganda under apartheid. In many instances, the evil was countered by those seeking to expose, from pirate stations to Radio Freedom in South Africa where radio was able to circumvent much of the oppression.

Perhaps radio's greatest strength, however, lies in its ability to create the “theatre of the mind” - using only audio. There are hundreds of examples of where this is done in a serious manner, where radio takes us along a journey, like, This American Life, or the groundbreaking Serial Podcast.

The series was so good a number of others, including a local version was produced. A quick search will reveal a host of audio gems from across the world like this one.

Radio, done well, will be as powerful, as informative as any online piece or any video. Radio can create scenes and scenarios and make the listener feel they are part of the action, they can also introduce the fun and bizarre.

There can be little doubt, that still one of the best examples of how radio was used to convey the surreal nature of war and also use radio to its strengths, was the Goon Show carried on the BBC in the 1950s. The show was the precursor to much of the best British comedy.

We are blessed with some of the most extraordinary stories and storytellers in South Africa, but far too often we seem to forget radio's power.

While we have the talent, more often than not the big stories and detailed breakdowns occur in online or television. This isn’t to say we don’t have people making amazing radio - just try some of our community stations, or listen to Red Cross Radio by and for children. It gives marginalised children a voice.

If you are looking for where those in power are regularly asked the most difficult questions - it is more often than not, on radio. Listen to any of our stations and you are bound to hear a politician or person in power squirm as they are asked for answers on current issues.

So, as we celebrate World Radio Day, next time you listen to the radio take a moment to really listen and to appreciate just how extraordinary it is - that we can have EWN and all our radio personalities with us, in our bathroom, workplace, car or taxi, dinner table and bedroom. And not only are we likely to learn from them, but we are also likely to be joined by personalities, experts, politicians, and analysts, on issues that will make us angry and sad, inspired and irritated, and hopeful to hungry - all with our ears.

William Bird is the Director of Media Monitoring Africa.

The aim of World Radio Day is to celebrate radio as a medium; to improve international cooperation between broadcasters; and to encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote access to information, freedom of expression and youth participation over the airwaves. You can find out more by visiting the World Radio Day website.


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI
Read More
[LISTEN] #WorldRadioDay: How radio has withstood the test of time

[LISTEN] #WorldRadioDay: How radio has withstood the test of time

13 February marks World Radio Day and Franz Kruger, Head of Wits School of Journalism talks about the power of the medium.

'In less than 100 years radio has become king and remained king' #WorldRadioDay

'In less than 100 years radio has become king and remained king' #WorldRadioDay

Harvard African Studies director. Obenewa Amponsah takes a journey down memory lane and looks at the role of radio in her life.

[WATCH] EWN/947's Cindy Poluta: I love the immediacy of radio #WorldRadioDay

[WATCH] EWN/947's Cindy Poluta: I love the immediacy of radio #WorldRadioDay

EWN Sports Editor Cindy Poluta talks about the power of radio.

[LISTEN] 947's Ravi Naidoo says no other country can mirror SA radio

[LISTEN] 947's Ravi Naidoo says no other country can mirror SA radio

Naidoo says radio is heading towards a more integrated approach as we celebrate World Radio Day.

Radio trends for the year ahead - podcasts, streams and subscriptions

Radio trends for the year ahead - podcasts, streams and subscriptions

Here are 3 predictions for what will become more significant for radio broadcasters in 2018: Podcasts, streams, and subscriptions.

[LISTEN] Life Beyond Olympics for refugee athletes

[LISTEN] Life Beyond Olympics for refugee athletes

Recipient of the prestigious Peace and Sport Awards 2016, Erin Hayba talks about her project, ‘From Refugee Camp to Rio’.

Popular articles
Tito Mboweni, Pik Botha, VBS and Floyd Shivambu - no holds barred on The Debrief

Tito Mboweni, Pik Botha, VBS and Floyd Shivambu - no holds barred on The Debrief

Politician Lindiwe Mazibuko, economist Refilwe Moloto, and journalist Rose Rogers have discussed the biggest topics this week.

Snakes season is here and if the crawlies visit you, here's what to do

Snakes season is here and if the crawlies visit you, here's what to do

Snake handler Willem van Zyk of Blouberg Snake Rescue says he's already being kept busy with callouts.

'VBS stolen money bought the most useless things like Ferraris and helicopters'

'VBS stolen money bought the most useless things like Ferraris and helicopters'

Deputy editor at Finacial Mail Sikonathi Mantshantsha says it is mind-boggling why no one has been arrested in the VBS saga.

Cape Town tenants could see property prices ease up, says RE/MAX

Cape Town tenants could see property prices ease up, says RE/MAX

The Cape Town rental market is said to be experiencing a major correction phase after an unjustified period of escalated prices.

I resigned from Sunday Times because I couldn't breathe - Pearlie Joubert

I resigned from Sunday Times because I couldn't breathe - Pearlie Joubert

Joubert resigned from the Sunday Times in January 2015 because she was unwilling to be party to "unethical and immoral" practices.

How businessman Max Lichaba struck gold with his jewellery company

How businessman Max Lichaba struck gold with his jewellery company

Entrepreneur Max Lichaba built his own empire and is the CEO of Lichaba Creations and several other businesses. This is his story.

3 emergency numbers you should have on speed dial and how they work

3 emergency numbers you should have on speed dial and how they work

These are the emergency numbers you should have on your cellphone and this is what you must understand about how they work.

Meet Johann Redelinghuys, a man hell-bent on ending retirement (as we know it)

Meet Johann Redelinghuys, a man hell-bent on ending retirement (as we know it)

“Why try and make retirement more palatable? Why not just abolish it completely?” says headhunter Johann Redelinghuys.