Days of radio are yet to be over
Shihab Sarkar | Published:
February 20, 2016 22:22:52
October 19, 2017 14:32:58
'Radio Days', was a widely acclaimed 1987 feature film directed and starred by Woody Allen. The movie vividly showed that commercial radio network always had a dominant place in the American life even in the late eighties. By then television had already made deep inroads into the US society. But the general people did not stop tuning in to radio, be it local or national.
Listening to radio news and other programmes and watching TV go parallel in the US even these days. By mid-eighties in Bangladesh, radio was largely driven out by the wonder-box TV in the urban areas. The upscale rural pockets have also witnessed the similar scenario. It's only lately that radio-listening has undergone resurgence with the launch of a number of private radio channels in the country. These FM (frequency modulation) radios can be found in the mobile phones.
Against this backdrop, this year's theme of the World Radio Day (February 13) --- 'Radio in Times of Disaster and Emergency', has appeared before us with fresh importance. No other slogan applies to Bangladesh more aptly, as the country is periodically battered by cyclones.
Besides the countries habituated to radio-listening, those vulnerable to different types of natural calamities also attach special importance to this medium of mass communication and awareness. Unlike other media outlets, radio enjoys a much wider audience, at times reaching the furthest corners of a country. Thus the countries with vast stretches of mountains and rugged landscapes throw focus on radio. Television turns out to be virtually useless in times of natural calamities. Authorities in these countries find radio to be the only option to communicate with people hit by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
As a country ever vulnerable to tropical storms, Bangladesh cannot downplay the importance of radio. Thanks to the campaigns by the government and various advocacy organisations, radio now finds itself to be an essential household item among the people in our coastal areas.
A radio listener in the USA turns on radio to learn about the developments of a presidential campaign in his or her state. Villagers in a Sub-Saharan country tune in to their community radio to be updated on the must-dos after the outbreak of an epidemic. The role of community radio channels has long been emphasised for promoting different kinds of awareness. Education, rights, hygiene and gender equality occupy major places among them. The UNESCO proclaimed World Radio Day on February 13, too, focuses on these aspects linked to awareness. The goal of the Radio Day, however, has a broader purpose. According to it, the day aims to "celebrate radio as a medium; to improve international cooperation between broadcasters; and to encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote radio access to information; freedom of expression ….."
Given the prospects latent in these objectives, radio could emerge as a powerful agent of social change in the developing countries.
Coming to this year's theme centring on emergency and disaster, Bangladesh needs to go for a reappraisal of the place of radio at its community level. Frequent low-intensity tremors over the last one-and-half decades have already raised the spectre of major earthquakes in the country. That the broadcasts of radio for people trapped in inaccessible piles of rubble in the big cities will save scores of lives need no elaboration. Let's turn to the weather bulletins over radio before some of the recent big cyclones in the country. These broadcasts have played a critical role in preventing many fatalities and damages to properties.
During the devastating 1970 cyclone, few people owned radio. Even when the super-cyclone already hit the far-off islands, many people had little idea about the unprecedented disaster awaiting them. Times have changed. Even people with meagre income can now afford a radio.