Nº 2 2015 > Celebrating radio
World Radio Day at ITU headquarters
On 13 February, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) hosted this year’s World Radio Day 2015 celebrations, co‑organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the United Nations Office in Geneva, and the ITU to celebrate the power of radio and look ahead to new and innovative means to connect the world, under the theme “Youth and Innovation”. World Radio Day was celebrated with a live global broadcast of panel discussions, call-ins from radio journalists covering breaking news of the day and radio features, as well as a jazz concert. In addition, a 24‑hour Radio Hackathon brought together technology buffs working on coding, hacking, building and breaking, while demos and technical discussions focused on future innovations in radio.
The celebrations began with a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki‑moon: “This year’s World Radio Day highlights the importance of radio to the world’s 1.8 billion young women and men. As the international community shapes new sustainable development goals and a new global agreement on climate change, we need to hear the voices of young women and men — loudly, strongly and urgently.”
François Rancy, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau, highlighted the valuable contribution of ITU’s work on radio: “The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), and ITU assignment and allotment plans and procedures ensure that spectrum is available for radio in every country. The ITU study groups develop the global standards that ensure the lowest costs through economies of scale and the most efficient use of spectrum for the sustainable development of radio in the future, in particular to reach the one billion people who still do not have access to radio today”.
A high-level debate on “The Future of Radio” was anchored by BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes and featured Michael Møller, Director General of the UN Office in Geneva; Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO; Annika Nyberg‑Frankenhaeuser, Media Director of EBU, speaking on behalf of Ingrid Deltenre, Director General of EBU; and Houlin Zhao, Secretary‑General of ITU.
During the high-level debate, Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General, emphasized the vital role of radio in connecting people, especially those in remote communities and the most vulnerable. He spoke about the strong role radio plays in emergency communications and disaster relief, or in providing access to vital information in the fight against diseases such as Ebola. Michael Møller, Director General of the UN Office in Geneva, also highlighted the role of radio for humanitarian missions, peacekeeping operations, health interventions, or in helping manage flows of refugees. He went even further, by describing radio as “a societal glue”.
Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO, agreed that today, radio is probably still by far the best medium to reach the unreachable (see Figure 1), and plays a significant role in the development and dissemination of information. Freedom of expression can anchor societies in a democratic manner, and contribute significantly to building peaceful, democratic and sustainable societies.
Annika Nyberg-Frankenhaeuser, Media Director of EBU, questioned the image of radio as a “legacy technology”. She disagreed with suggestions that the development of new communication mediums necessarily means the death of old mediums (see next article by Dr David Wood). Rather, each new medium has added a new dimension, rather than supplanting old mediums. She pointed out that radio continues to play a vital role in people’s lives today, and radio actually has a very bright future — partly because broadcast radio often still works when other technologies do not (such as in disaster areas, or after a catastrophe has occurred), but also in our everyday lives, when people can listen to radio while doing other things — radio can be complementary and very attractive to young audiences in many different countries.
Mr Engida concurred, underlining the role of interesting and relevant content in making radio attractive to new audiences. Mr Møller also identified an important role for radio in educating listeners, as one way to help people speak on the basis of well-informed knowledge.
A technical session, coordinated by Christoph Dosch, Chairman of ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) Study Group 6 (Broadcasting service), also examined new trends and innovations in radio, including hybrid interactive digital radio, traffic information on Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio, emergency radiocommunications and how personalized radio will transform the way people will listen to radio programmes. Participants included: Matthew Shotton, BBC; Matthias Stoll, Ampegon, Roger Miles and Mathias Coinchon from EBU; Fabian Sattler from IRT; Satoshi Oode from NHK; Nicole Winkler, Oliver Helbig and Olaf Korte from Fraunhofer IIS; Aldo Scotti from RaiWay; and Christian Wachter and Thomas Bögl from Rohde & Schwarz.
For more information and to access the webcast, see: www.itu.int/en/wrd15/Pages/default.aspx.