“Radio Isn't Just a Platform; It's a Social Institution.” Reflections on World Radio Day Celebration in London

Peter Westman | FrontlineSMS | February 15, 2012

This past Monday 13th February a packed lecture theatre at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (UK), helped get the first World Radio Day off to a flying start. World Radio Day marks a unique opportunity to reflect on radio’s importance as an information source and its ability to reach remote and marginalized communities. Alongside SOAS Radio, Lifeline Energy and Empowerhouse, FrontlineSMS:Radio co-organized an event which focused on “New Perspectives on Traditional Radio,” adding London to the global celebrations taking place from Australia to Guatemala, from Bangladesh to Zambia.

Opening the event in London, Guy Berger, the Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, explained his belief that: “Radio isn’t just a platform; it’s a social institution.” Offering a moving account about growing up in apartheid South Africa, Guy explained how “Radio Freedom,” broadcast by the African National Congress in Zambia, acted as a voice for resistance and a tool for building communities from the 1970s and through the 1990s.

As I start my role as Radio Project Assistant at FrontlineSMS, I have been struck by the use of radio as a tool for freedom of expression. Despite the tremendous amount of attention given to ICTs centered around the internet, radio remains one of the most pervasive, immediate, and affordable sources of information for many people worldwide. We heard during Monday’s event that while 65% of the world’s 7 billion people do not use the internet, 75% of people in economically developing do countries have access to a radio.

I was particularly impressed by the diversity of the academics, practitioners, and developers represented at the event. Participants included Lifeline Energy, an NGO that provides wind-up and solar powered radios to vulnerable populations for group listening, as well as  Empowerhouse, which offers online training for Community Radio stations  and support with evaluation and impact assessment...

Open Health News' Take: 

This is a terrific report and well worth reading in its entirety. Sometimes "old technology" can do a much better job than the latest gizmos. This is a case in point. RAM