Radio and Diversity

Less than two weeks ago, we observed World Radio Day and according to UNESCO, even in an era marked by the dizzying speed of technological innovation and the rapid obsolescence of one shiny new platform after another, radio is beginning its second century of service as one of the most dependable and widely utilized forms of media in the world.
On 14 January 2013, the United Nations General Assembly formally endorsed UNESCO’s proclamation of World Radio Day. During its 67th Session, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 13 February, the day United Nations Radio was established in 1946, as World Radio Day.
The objectives of the day are to raise greater awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio; to encourage decision makers to establish and provide access to information through radio; as well as to enhance networking and international cooperation among broadcasters.
This year, World Radio Day theme was “Radio and Diversity.” In his message UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, outlined that radio brings people together and in an era of rapid media evolution, it retains a special place in every community as an accessible source of vital news and information.
Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay pointing out that radio is has a central role in our societies, now and in the years to come said that the year 2024 marks a milestone in the history of this medium. “It is the year we celebrate the centenary of the first live radio broadcast of the Olympic Games, on the eve of the next Games in Paris. This milestone reminds us that, since its creation at the end of the nineteenth century, radio has always been with us, bringing us together around powerful moments and shared emotions.”
For the century, radio has been informing, entertaining, and also educating, as this year’s theme underlines. Azoulay said “it is all the more true today: despite the growing influence of the Internet and social networks, radio continues to be a prime source of information and entertainment – it is estimated that over 4 billion people listen to it. Radio is also the medium that reaches places others do not: while almost a third of the population did not have a decent Internet connection in 2023, a proportion that rises to half of the population in rural areas, radio is more inclusive and accessible, particularly in crisis situations.”
She went on to say, in Afghanistan, following the decision to deprive Afghan girls and women of their fundamental right to learn and teach, UNCESO has put in place what is in effect education over the airwaves, supporting Radio Begum in particular. This radio station, run by Afghan women for Afghan women, provides literacy courses and gives them a voice. Radio can also be the voice of the voiceless, enabling all individuals and communities to express themselves, and to bring the diversity of their cultures to life. That is why UNESCO supports and encourages community radio all over the world.
Here in Guyana, radio broadcast is reported to have had its founding in the late 1920s when experimental shortwave broadcasts received from Daventry, England were initiated, not long after the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was itself established in 1922.
After broadcasting for a few hours each week, the shortwave service ended suddenly in 1931 due to economic constraints, and it wasn’t until 1935 that radio resumed when the Marylebone Cricket Club visited the colony, and local demand for cricket commentary prompted the establishment of radio stations VP3BG and later VP3MR.
The two stations are said to have been the first two radio stations established in the English- speaking Caribbean, and became popular for their cricket commentaries, music and religious programmes. Today, radio programming in Guyana caters to a diverse ethnic demographic, which cover both AM and FM broadcast bands.
According to the United Nations, Radio is still the most dynamic, reactive and engaging medium there is, adapting to 21st century changes and offering new ways to interact and participate.