Despite the onslaught of modern communications means, including television, internet and smart phones, radio remains the most dynamic and engaging mass media in the world and which continues to be the major source of information and influence in Africa.
Since earmarking 13 February as World Radio Day in 2011, the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been working to promote radio communication as a means to find ‘greater solutions’ to the planet’s problems. This year’s World Radio Day, which is themed around the concept of ‘Radio for You’, saw more than 550 events being held around the world.
Speaking at the launch of this year’s World Radio Day, the Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova said: “Advancing fundamental freedoms and promoting public access to information is essential to bolstering good governance and the rule of law, to deepening inclusion and dialogue. In tackling new challenges, in responding to climate change, in countering discrimination, radio can provide an accessible and real-time medium to bridge divides and strengthen dialogue.”
In a survey conducted following last year’s World Radio Day, UNESCO obtained several interesting statistics on radio prevalence in Africa:
In Tanzania, 83 percent of people get news and information from radio, making it the leader of both media and non‐media sources.
Radio remains the most accessible and used medium in Zambia. Access to radio and television in urban areas is about equal (85% for radio and 79% for TV) while in the rural area the difference is more significant (68% for radio and 26% for TV).
Community radio is the fastest growing form of radio communication in Africa. In the 11 African countries surveyed by UNESCO, while local commercial radio grew by an average of 360 percent between 2000 and 2006, community radio grew by a striking 1,386 percent.
For the majority of listeners in Kenya the most popular thing learned from radio was politics, with 21 percent indicating it as the thing they learned most.
Radio is said to be the most reliable and affordable medium of exchanging information and knowledge in many communities across Africa where access to electricity, internet, and television is limited.
Radio offers the opportunity for small communities whose voices are not heard on wider medium, to express themselves on touchy subjects, which affects their country or community, while being at the same time protected behind ‘a voice’.
Where social media and audience fragmentation can put us in media bubbles of like-minded people, radio is uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster positive dialogue for change. By listening to its audiences and responding to their needs, radio provides the diversity of views and voices needed to address the challenges we all face. Radio informs us and transforms us, through entertainment, information and audience participation. Having a radio means you are never alone – you always have a friend in radio.