“Being an Italian, and in Rome spending one hour in traffic, I am obliged to be a big consumer of radio!” quipped Giacomo Mazzone, Head of Institutional Relations at the European Broadcasting Union, during an interview with ITU at the recent European Radio Show in Paris.
Indeed, radio has remained an important source of information and entertainment for listeners worldwide for over a century. But in the past several years, radio professionals have had to adapt to stay relevant in the face of major technological changes. Traditional radio sets have faced increased competition from new devices and means of communication, such as smartphones and social media.
“It just means that radio has to produce the right content for [you] and give it to you in really easy, simple ways across all the devices you want to use. It’s very good for the listener, for the consumer, ultimately,” argues Mark Friend, Controller for Multiplatform and Interactive for BBC Radio and Music.
“We have to keep up with today’s trends. That means you need to be cutting-edge,” said Clarisse Frigoul, presenter for MAXI L’Air Radio in France. “Social media is growing tremendously. There are webcams in studios, so everything is recorded. We are a long way from where radio was 20 years ago. … It’s just not the same game anymore.”
These changes present radio with an opportunity to build stronger communities through social networks that enable listeners to participate and feel involved, says Ilaria Malucelli from radio technology company Axel.
Learn more about the changing face of radio by watching the video below.
Yet, while technology is changing, at it’s heart, radio is largely unchanged.
“The future radio … it’s not technology, it’s not the way you broadcast that is important,” says Philippe Chapot, CEO of the European Radio Show. “What is important is your voice and how you ask me questions and how I answer those questions so that I concern the person that is listening to me – and radio people are very good at that.”
The critical role of radio for the world’s unconnected
Nowhere is this more important than for the 3.9 billion people still unconnected to the Internet. While 40% of the population in developing world is online, at least 75% of households in developing countries have access to a radio.
Radio remains a reliable, affordable and available way to gather and spread information in communities without ready access to electricity, telephones and the internet. This is one of the reasons why radio is a vital tool for emergency telecommunications. When mobile phone networks and Internet access are cut off, radio broadcasting is often used to keep the victims of a disaster informed and up-to-date about news, and helps to coordinate relief efforts where necessary.
Moreover, radio does not discriminate against those who cannot read and write and therefore, is an essential source of information and entertainment for the nearly 17% of the world’s adult population which are illiterate.
Lucy Spencer (@L_M_Spencer)