World Radio Day: Why radio remains Africa’s best media tool

13Feb 2020
The Guardian
World Radio Day: Why radio remains Africa’s best media tool

Radio is one of the oldest forms of mass media. One would think that the invention of the internet and the proliferation of social media sites would undermine the essence and value of the radio broadcasting but that has not happened, at least not in Africa.

While the internet largely serves its part in mass communication, radio still champions the cause, especially at the local and communal level.

The radio broadcast in itself has modified over time to suit more purposes and contexts. From the terrestrial zone, other alternatives like cable radio, local wire television networks, satellite radio, and internet radio have emerged.

Guglielmo Marconi is recognised as the inventor of the radio. However, it is on record that several engineers before him had made contributions towards it. Marconi had the privilege of working on existing works of others. He harnessed them and gave a somewhat finishing touch on it to make it what today is identified as the radio.

Radio always has something for everyone- from local to international news, music of all genres, drama, entertainment, cultural and topical discussions.

In the international scene, there has been an upsurge in radio broadcasting, thanks to technological advancements. Radio is the transmission and reception of electromagnetic waves of radio frequency, especially those carrying sound messages. Cellular phones are linked by radio rather than wires. Telecommunications in Tanzania include radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet available in mainland Tanzania and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago.

Radio remains the most used mass-communication medium in Africa. It has the widest geographical reach and the greatest audiences compared with the Internet, television and newspapers.The statistics from the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) show that from 86 licensed radio in 2012, the number almost doubled until 2017. Following a request from the Spanish Radio Academy on 20 September 2010, Spain proposed that the UNESCO executive board include an agenda item on the proclamation of a World Radio Day. UNESCO's executive board approved the agenda item in its provisional agenda for the proclamation of a ‘World Radio Day’ on 29 September 2011. UNESCO carried out a wide consultation in 2011 with diverse stakeholders, such as broadcasting associations.

The board recommended to the UNESCO 36th session of the General Conference that it proclaim a World Radio Day at its 36th session, and that this day be celebrated by UNESCO on 13 February, the anniversary of the day that the United Nations established the United Nations Radio in 1946. It also invited all United Nations member states, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, professional associations and broadcasting unions, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to duly celebrate World Radio Day, in the way that each considers most adequate. The board further requested that UNESCO's Director-General bring the resolution to the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, so that World Radio Day could be endorsed by the General Assembly and celebrated by the whole system. The matter was subsequently treated by UNESCO's general conference, which adopted resolution. World Radio Day was thus unanimously proclaimed by all member states of UNESCO in November 2011.

In December 2012, The General Assembly of the UN endorsed the proclamation of World Radio Day, which thereby became a day to be celebrated by all UN agencies, funds and programmes and their partners. Various radio industry bodies around the world are supporting the initiative by encouraging stations in developed countries to assist those in the developing world.