In an era marked by the dizzying speed of technological innovation and the rapid obsolescence of one shiny new platform after another, radio is beginning its second century of service as one of the most dependable and widely utilized forms of media in the world, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the occasion of the World Radio Day.
Proclaimed in 2011 by the member states of UNESCO and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2012 as an international day, February 13 declared as the World Radio Day. As a technology, science, means of communications and system of programming audio elements, radio has roots all the way back to the 1800s. “We celebrate not only the history of radio, but also its central role in our societies, now and in the years to come,” said Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO director-general.
She said that the year 2024 marks a milestone in the history of this medium, as the world celebrates the centenary of the first live radio broadcast of the Olympic Games, on the eve of the next games in Paris. “This milestone reminds us that, since its creation at the end of the nineteenth century, radio has always been with us, bringing us together around powerful moments and shared emotions,” she said.
Audrey Azoulay acknowledges road traveled by radio, power of airwaves to build possibility of a better world
“And so, for over a century, it has been informing us, entertaining us, and also educating us, as this year’s theme underlines,” Audrey Azoulay said. “It is all the more true today: despite the growing influence of the internet and social networks, radio continues to be a prime source of information and entertainment – it is estimated that over four billion people listen to it,” she said.
Almost a third of the population did not have a decent internet connection, a proportion that rises to half of the population in rural areas, radio is more inclusive and accessible, particularly in crisis situations. In Afghanistan, following the decision to deprive girls and women of their fundamental right to learn and teach, the UNESCO has put in place what is in effect education over the airwaves, supporting Radio Begum in particular.
This radio station, run by Afghan women for Afghan women, provides literacy courses and gives them a voice. It said that the radio can also be the voice of the voiceless, enabling all individuals and communities to express themselves, and to bring diversity of their cultures to life. “That is why UNESCO supports and encourages community radio all over the world,” she said.
“As we see it, radio is more than a technical means of broadcasting: it embodies a certain idea of information, cultural diversity and education for all; we could go so far as to say that radio can and must be a humanist medium,” Audrey Azoulay said. “Today, may we once again acknowledge the road travelled by radio, and the power of its airwaves to build – to broadcast – the possibility of a better world,” she said.