Evolution, innovation and connection: RADIO REMAINS KING!

By Adeela Akmal
Tue, 02, 21

So, here I was lying on the floor, fiddling with my feature phone – Nokia 6030 – trying to pass the time....

world radio day

It was a particularly rough day in Class 7 for 13-year-old me. I lagged behind in one of the classes, my classmates were meaner than usual and the feeling of despair was a constant companion. I waited impatiently for school to be over so I can get home, put on my headphones and immerse myself in all the new music I downloaded on my PC. But as I got home, the power outage put an immense damper on my plans.

So, here I was lying on the floor, fiddling with my feature phone – Nokia 6030 – trying to pass the time. There wasn’t much to do since I used to get limited phone balance… until I stumbled upon the radio feature. And, that’s when I fell in love with the radio. While switching frequencies, I tuned into FM96 which happened to be playing one of my favourite songs, ‘The Reason by Hoobastank’. It was the exact same song but it sounded somewhat better on the medium. When the song ended, I was sold! The jovial RJ kept me hooked to the show; I didn’t even realise how easily two hours flew by or if I was even having a horrible day. After that, radio became my best friend. It was an engaging experience because we could text in or call into these shows. Seeing that I was such an avid listener, my mother moved her Sony Stereo Deck in my room and we would sometimes listen to it together. Not just that, I was a pretty interactive listener too. Sometimes, I would even have people at school ask me if it was me who called in at a certain radio show the previous night. (Bragging rights!) To this day, nothing beats the feeling you get when you hear your song playing on the radio versus playing it on your music player.

Radio is considered to be one of the oldest mediums in the media industry. Even though it’s a medium often associated with the past in popular culture, it continues to thrive in the Internet era. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that radio was also the first social media platform since it is essentially an interactive experience. It is one of the most innovative and multichannel mediums around, embracing new technologies before many of the social media platforms started popping up left, right and centre.

Hence, proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day (WRD). This year on the occasion, UNESCO calls on radio stations to celebrate this event’s 10th anniversary and more than 110 years of radio. The theme ‘New World, New Radio’ is an ode to the resilience of the medium. It is a tribute to its capacity for perpetual adaptation to the rhythm of societal transformations and listeners’ new needs. Accessible anywhere and anytime, radio reaches a broad audience. It presents itself as an arena where all voices can be expressed, represented, and heard – hence why radio is still the most consumed medium worldwide today.

In Pakistan, radio has been prominent in educating, informing and entertaining audiences in the country, along with the Pakistani diaspora worldwide. In modern times, cable and satellite television, as well as streaming networks like Netflix are popular mediums across urban areas. However, radio is still a popular medium in rural areas where affordability and access to television is an issue.

As Pakistanis, we are all too familiar with the infamous first ever announcement from Radio Pakistan: “Assalam-o-Alaikum! Pakistan Broadcasting Service. Hum Lahore se bol rahe hain. Terran aur chaudaa August sann saintalees ki darmiani raat, ba’ara bajay hain, Tuloo-e-Subhe Azaadi!”

This year on the occasion, UNESCO calls on radio stations to celebrate this event’s 10th anniversary and the more than 110 years of radio. 

(Greetings Pakistan Broadcasting Service, we are speaking from Lahore, the night between the 13th and 14th of August, year ’47. It is 12 o’clock, the dawn of freedom.)

Ever since then, the medium has enjoyed a rich journey that followed us through thick and thin. It brought people together in an era of rapid media evolution. It retains a special place in every community as an accessible source of vital news (especially local) and information. Moreover, radio is also a source of innovation that pioneered interaction with audiences and user-generated content decades before it became mainstream. Radio offers a wonderful display of diversity in its formats, in its languages, and among radio professionals themselves.

Storytelling has always been a game-changer and if there was any medium that excelled at that is radio. The scripts are prepared with such finesse that it can take listeners on a journey by using emotion and excitement. It is not just content – it is content built around a carefully crafted story. Any good radio presenter worth their salt will tell you how long a show takes to plan. Even something that sounds completely spontaneous is usually carefully scripted. The presenters are highly skilled in the craft and it isn’t appreciated as much as it should be. If you think about it, radio is the ultimate storytelling medium – and always has been.

Come to think of it, print media and radio share some similarities in this regard. It requires great skill to execute its content but its craft is probably the most underrated of the bunch. Moreover, like print has a digital landscape in the form of websites and online blogs, radio now too has one in the form of online streaming and podcasts. Podcasts are streamable and downloadable audio entertainment, easy for on-the-go listening. Simply put, they are internet radio shows on demand. You could say if radio is theatre, podcasts are movies.

This edition of WRD is divided into three main sub-themes: evolution, innovation and connection. The world changes, radio evolves, adapts and innovates, and connects. As we are developing our mediums with each passing day, it is essential that we treasure the pioneer of interactive media platform. The social media space and many of the radio brands and personalities have incredibly robust followings, meaning that radio stations can continue the conversation with listeners way beyond the ‘dial’. How you tune into radio is changing, but the reason why has always remained the same: to listen to quality shows you love.

Radio remains a trusted companion. When it comes to dealing with high traffic levels, it’s a driver’s best friend despite having other technologies available to us. It is that sound entertainment that people from all walks of life can enjoy in the moment. And, let’s not forget the thrill of hearing a message you send on-air or to have a song played on request. Live, on-air content remains king.