On Monday February 13 UNESCO launched the first ever World Radio Day, celebrating and promoting the continuing global importance of the radio.
Amidst the era of social networking the radio continues to defy the test of time – a staple of mass media since Guglielmo Marconi first tickled the public airwaves with music in 1920. Warning of imminent threats, disseminating culture, mobilising social change; radio has been connecting the most distant of people far before the phrase ‘to friend’ was coined.
So why introduce World Radio Day when the medium is so embedded within global culture already? Approved in late 2011 to mark the ‘transformational power of radio’ and the first broadcast of United Nations Radio in 1946, the purpose of World Radio Day is to not only celebrate the low cost medium but also raise awareness of its perpetual influence. Stated in the resolution of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris 2011:
‘The celebration of a World Radio Day will raise greater awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio as well as enhance networking and international cooperation among broadcasters.’
Importance of radio
The International Telecommunication Union claims three quarters of homes across the world possess a radio, with many others having communual access. However as broadcasters begin to prioritise the internet in the digital age, the billions who rely on more traditional means of accessing information must be remembered. Although still subject to suppression in some regions, the radio still remains the most free source of information for those who otherwise have to accept propaganda-driven media. Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova stressed this point:
‘Radio is the mass medium that reaches the widest audience, especially the most marginalised parts of our societies. Free, independent and pluralistic radio is essential for healthy societies, it is vital for advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms.’
UNESCO’s call of celebration for World Radio Day was answered by a variety of practitioners, NGOs and broadcasting associations across continents. Various activities and seminars were organised to discuss how this well-aged communication platform can branch even further to those in the most isolated and vulnerable communities. One hopes with such support, World Radio Day will become a successful annual event.
From digital to wind-up, radio empowers people, they respond to what they hear. It supersedes illiteracy, race and education. The crackle of a voice emitting from a worn speaker, bringing with it elation, warning or simply a sense of hope, is a moment rivaled by no other.