Did you know that February 13 is World Radio Day? An initiative of the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union, World Radio Day is now in its sixth year of celebrating radio’s continuing importance and relevance in our increasingly digital world. The 2017 installment of World Radio Day was the most successful yet: 110 countries around the world hosted 550 events, more than 42,000 people visited the World Radio Day website, and #WorldRadioDay and related hashtags were Twitter’s top global trending topic.
As the founder of Ariana Television and Radio Network (ATN), Afghanistan’s largest private media channel, Dr. Ehsan Bayat understands the vital role that radio still has to play in improving the lives of people throughout Afghanistan, and all over the world. Read on for a closer look at what World Radio Day is all about.
What is World Radio Day?
In January 2013, the United Nations General Assembly formally endorsed UNESCO’s proclamation of February 13 as World Radio Day. UNESCO chose February 13 in recognition of the date in 1946, when United Nations Radio, the UN’s international broadcasting service, launched.
World Radio Day’s objectives are to increase awareness of radio’s importance among both the public and the media and to encourage decision makers to recognize the value of radio as a medium for distributing information. It also aims to facilitate public access to radio, to support freedom of expression and gender equality in major networks and community radio alike, and to promote networking and cooperation among international broadcasters.
What is the state of radio in the world today?
A few simple statistics show us that radio still occupies a vitally important role in our global society today:
- According to Nielsen data, over 90% of the world’s adults listen to the radio at least once a week.
- In 2016, the number of radio listeners was greater than the number of television viewers or smartphone users.
- At least 75% of households in developing nations have access to a radio.
What is so important about radio?
Radio is uniquely positioned to reach some of the world’s most remote and vulnerable people. Here are just a few of the many benefits that radio can offer over other forms of communications technology:
- Doesn’t cost much—The cost of new technologies like mobile phones has decreased substantially in recent years and will continue to go down in the future, but these items still remain out of reach for many people. Radios, on the other hand, are highly affordable, consume a minimal amount of power, and do not require any ongoing costs for maintenance or upkeep.
- Serves as a link to the world for people who cannot read or write—One of radio’s most important advantages is that it can reach people even if they cannot read or write. Given that almost 17% of the world’s adult population is illiterate, radio provides a critical link between these people, their communities, and the wider world, ensuring that illiteracy or a lack of higher education does not mean they are completely cut off from important events around them.
- Distributes vital emergency information—Radio continues to be a key telecommunications tool in emergency and disaster scenarios. Mobile phone networks and Internet access are frequently disrupted or completely cut off during a natural disaster or other emergency, but radio service generally remains available. Therefore, radio broadcasting is one of the best ways to ensure that disaster victims receive up-to-date news about the situation. People can also use it to help coordinate relief efforts.
- Helps build local communities—It is difficult to overstate the importance of radio as a tool in building and maintaining strong local communities, particularly in developing countries and remote or isolated regions. Local radio allows community members to receive information about news and events that matter to them, in their own language; in this, it performs the vital social task of bringing people together through shared experience and shared issues. Indeed, in many remote communities, radio is often described as a “lifeline” for members who would otherwise have limited outside contact.
How can radio and the Internet complement each other?
While there were many concerns in the early days of the Internet that new digital technology would end up completely supplanting radio, these fears have so far proven to be unfounded. Indeed, far from displacing radio, the Internet has helped make it more vital than ever before thanks to new distribution channels and methods (radio is now transmitted digitally in a number of countries), and new data and multimedia applications that help create a seamless link between radio and the online world. As we move forward, radio will be inspired to innovate with new capabilities, drawing from the best of both worlds—its traditional roots and today’s new technologies—to create a medium that speaks to our present world.