World Radio Day
UNESCO’s General Conference, at its 36th session, proclaimed World Radio Day on 13 February.
UNESCO’s Executive Board recommended to the General Conference the proclamation of World Radio Day, on the basis of a feasibility study undertaken by UNESCO, further to a proposal from Spain.
Radio is the mass media reaching the widest audience in the world. It is also recognized as a powerful communication tool and a low cost medium. Radio is specifically suited to reach remote communities and vulnerable people: the illiterate, the disabled, women, youth and the poor, while offering a platform to intervene in the public debate, irrespective of people’s educational level. Furthermore, radio has a strong and specific role in emergency communication and disaster relief.
There is also a changing face to radio services which, in the present times of media convergence, are taking up new technological forms, such as broadband, mobiles and tablets. However, it is said that up to a billion people still do not have access to radio today.
A wide consultation process started in June 2011, carried out by UNESCO. It included all stakeholders, i.e. broadcasting associations; public, state, private, community and international broadcasters; UN agencies; funds and programmes; topic-related NGOs; academia; foundations and bilateral development agencies; as well as UNESCO Permanent Delegations and National Commissions. Among the answers, 91% were in favour of the project. The leader of the project, the Academia Española de la Radio, received over 46 letters of support from diverse stakeholders, including the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB), the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the International Association of Broadcasting (IAB), the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA), the Organización de Telecomunicaciones Ibeoramericanas (OTI), BBC, URTI, Vatican Radio, etc.
The date of 13 February, the day the United Nations radio was established in 1946, was proposed by the Director-General of UNESCO. The objectives of the Day will be 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.
The consulted stakeholders also proposed ideas for the programme of celebration: extensive use of social media, annual themes, a dedicated website enabling virtual participation, special radio programmes, radio programmes exchange, a festival involving key partners, and so forth.
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 endorsed the resolution adopted during the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference, proclaiming 13 February, the day United Nations Radio was established in 1946, as World Radio Day.
This year, the UNESCO theme for World Radio Day is “Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster”. Radio still remains the medium that reaches the widest audience worldwide, in the quickest possible time.
Through World Radio Day celebrations around the world, UNESCO will promote radio in times of emergency and disaster, and put forward the following messages:
- Freedom of expression and journalists’ safety should be disaster-proof.
- Radio empowers survivors and vulnerable people, whose right to privacy is to be respected.
- Radio has social impact and provides access to information. People’s right to information should be protected even in times of emergency and disaster.
- Radio saves lives.
- The immediate accessibility of radio frequencies is essential to saving lives. These frequencies should be protected so they are available in times of emergency.
On 13 February, international broadcasters will broadcast live on UNESCO’s dedicated website, www.worldradioday.org.
Through National Commissions for UNESCO Field Offices and partner organisations, World Radio Day will be celebrated worldwide. UNESCO will also provide copyright free articles, audio and video messages from opinion leaders, celebrities, and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors related to radio for use by broadcasters on World Radio Day.
UNESCO invites all countries to celebrate World Radio Day by planning activities in partnership with regional, national and international broadcasters, non-governmental organizations, national authorities, the media and the public.
Radio saves lives
Radio is powerful before, during and after times of emergency and disaster. Radio empowers listeners and allows humanitarian workers and rescuers to protect people.
- Radio is an extremely efficient way in which to assist communities to prepare for disasters and reduce the risk of death and injury.
- Radio can act as an early warning system to reduce disaster risk.
- Radio helps disseminate messages to affected communities and contributes to the impact humanitarian organizations can have on the ground.
- Radio is technically resistant. In times of crisis, radio is always on: Radio is able to broadcast and to be received, even when electricity fails. This makes radio a unique medium in order to maintain the link between rescuers and survivors.
Freedom of expression and journalists’ safety should be disaster-proof
Radio is a powerful medium before, during and after an emergency or a disaster. Responding to emergencies is easier and more transparent when there is freedom of the expression and journalists can do their work while remaining safe.
1. The impact that radio has in emergency situations is crucial. Without proper information, citizens are left to rumour on social media and their own judgment of the situation, which can be fatal.
2. During emergencies, journalists can:
- Impart accurate news and credible information;
- Provide educational and empowering content;
- Help implement plans;
- Expose corruption around disaster aid and policy failures and
- Give a voice to those affected by the emergency.
3. States should act tirelessly to ensure that when a crisis hits, laws that restrict freedom of expression are long since repealed, so that citizens can fully be informed.
4. Radio can make the right to seek and receive information possible. This is a practical way to facilitate the right to information (RTI) (also known as the right to know, or the right to access information).
5. The right of journalists to keep secret their confidential sources of information is to be protected even in times of emergency and disaster.
6. Access to information and localities for journalists is vital during emergencies and disasters, so they can freely report the latest news. Access to information for people saves lives.
Radio has social impact and provides access to information. People’s right to information should be protected.
Radio is powerful in times of emergency and disaster. Radio has the ability to raise awareness to the greatest number of people in the quickest possible time. On its own, social media plays an important part, but when it is linked to the institution of a reliable radio service, its impact can be far more effective.
Here are some key messages to explore on or around World Radio Day, 16 February 2016:
- Radio can assist in the quick mobilisation of people to ensure a strong and coordinated global response to an emergency.
- The messages heard on radio can turn people from passive listener to active citizen, especially in times of emergency and disaster. Radio interactivity is a power feature.
- Radio is an important partner for government and non-government organisations to help ensure a coordinated response.
- Community radio is a vital local resource in disaster and emergency, usually highly efficient due to their knowledge of local resources, infrastructures and actors. However, community radio stations can also be vulnerable – their reporters and technical staff can be affected by the situation. Ongoing support for local community radio stations and ensuring they have a sustainable future, is important as it is too late to create their infrastructure when disaster and emergency strike.
Radio frequencies should be protected in times of emergency.
The immediate accessibility of radio frequencies is essential to saving lives. These frequencies should be protected in times of emergency.
Key messages to explore on or around World Radio Day, 13 February 2016:
- Radio frequencies and their accessibility during times of emergency and disaster must be secured and assured. The blocking of essential radio frequencies can harm lives and prevent radio’s ability to disseminate vital information.
- The frequencies dedicated to radio broadcasting in an emergency should remain free and accessible.
- Radio broadcast frequencies can also become vulnerable in times of emergency. States should have protection plans in place for emergency radio frequencies.
Radio empowers survivors and vulnerable people, whose right to privacy is to be respected.
Radio is a powerful medium before, during and after an emergency or a disaster. Radio helps to provide dignity to survivors and vulnerable people, including in refugee camps.
Key Messages to explore on or around World Radio Day
- In times of emergency and disaster, radio remains active and close to the people most affected. It provides a unique way of reuniting loved ones and can help alleviate the concerns of people affected by a disaster in real time.
- Emergencies and disasters weaken people and break social links. Populations tend to believe in various unverified rumours about looting, social unrest and lawlessness, which radio can rectify or exacerbate. A disproportionate emphasis on social disorder by media can reinforce the discourse calling for greater control and restriction of basic freedoms.
- Radio aids humanitarian workers and decision-makers by framing the disaster authentically and fostering informed attitudes to such interventions.
- Respecting people’s privacy and dignity remains paramount for ethical media coverage.
- Pluralistic reporting of major crises or disasters is vital to respect thedignity of survivors, maintaining their spirit of equity and justice – wherever or whatever the disaster is, all human lives are equal. Hate speech has no place in the covering of emergency situations
Check out the “Radio in a Box” initiative to find out how radio can empower and bring dignity to refugees in camps.
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