The world observes ‘World Radio Day’ on 13 February to draw attention to the unique value of radio. Radio is a medium to reach the widest audience and is currently taking up new technological forms and devices. This year, the UNESCO’s theme for World Radio Day is “Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster” This theme suits with the geographical and disaster prone country like Bangladesh where people can have easy access to radio to minimize the loss caused by natural disasters and calamities. Radio still remains the medium that reaches the widest audience worldwide, in the quickest possible time. The objective of celebrating the radio day is to improve international cooperation among radio broadcasters and encourage decision-makers to create and provide access to information through radio, including community radios. UNESCO encourages all countries to celebrate this day by undertaking activities with diverse partners, such as national, regional and international broadcasting associations and organisations, non-governmental organisations, media organisations, outlets as well as the public at large.
On 20 September 2010 Spain proposed that the UNESCO Executive Board include an agenda item on the proclamation of a World Radio Day. UNESCO’s Executive Board approved the agenda item in its provisional agenda, for the proclamation of a “World Radio Day” on 29 September 2011. UNESCO carried out a wide consultation in 2011 with diverse stakeholders. In December 2012, The General Assembly of the UN endorsed the proclamation of World Radio Day, thereby becoming a Day to be celebrated by all UN agencies, funds and programs and their partners. Various radio industry bodies around the world are supporting the initiative by encouraging stations in developed countries to assist those in the developing world.
Radio stands as the most people-friendly and easily available medium as people need not be literate or educated to listen to it and get direct and quick benefit from it . Nor do they need to look at the radio set all the while as they need to do in respect of watching TV and reading newspapers. They can work and simultaneously listen to it. People can listen to it sitting together, have fun and gather valuable information about agriculture, livestock, health and hygiene. It can be listened sitting in a dark room or a lighted room. Electricity is not necessary for radio as it can be operated by batteries and a radio set is an easily portable item. Messages can be sent to unreachable and underserved areas of Bangladesh which is not possible for other media. In our country three types of radios are in operation such as Bangladesh Betar (state owned radio), Commercial Radio and Community Radio. Bangladesh Betar gives importance to national issues, so it has some limitations to broadcast the things and issues of root levels and individual areas. On the other hand, the commercial radios put emphasis on urban based issues, things and entertainment. It does not cover the interest and themes of the common mass. The Community Radio as the very name suggests that it caters to the needs and tastes of rural and marginalized population. Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) has started advocacy process on observing the 1st World Radio Day on 13 February 2012 in collaboration with public service Broadcasting, Commercial broadcasting & Community Broadcasting at local and national level.
It is good to learn that the government of Bangladesh has given recognition to 28 private FM and 32 Community Radios. It sends a signal that the importance of this medium has caught the attention of the government. Bangladesh Betar runs 12 locals stations and 35 FM radios. Bangladesh NGOs for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) has been advocating with the government since 2000 to broadcast the issues, messages and news among the rural community in their own and easy languages. It received importance from the government and BNNRC has started introducing 17 community radio centres since 2011. It is going to open another 15 centers. Community Radios broadcast the programs developed on local issues, themes and things. It tries to cater to the needs and tastes of the people of individual areas and has already earned a good reputation among the locals.
Bangladesh is a natural disaster prone country because of its geographical location. Natural calamities are the companions of the people of this country who need to learn when and what to do during, before and after any kind of natural disasters and the Community Radios stand beside them during these critical hours. In 2013 Bangladesh experienced cyclone ‘Mohasen’ which damaged the electricity system of coastal areas but the six Community Radio Stations in coastal areas broadcast 514 hours programs between 11 May and 16 May. They made people know and alerted them about the directions and focal point of the cyclone and expert opinions, local administration’s steps through community radio. People of these areas could take shelter in safe places timely to minimize the loss and destruction. Thus Community Radio has already proved its worth and necessity among the people of the remotest and disaster prone zones. Let us observe the day with due importance to highlight the unique power of radio to touch lives and bring people together from every corner of the globe.
The writer works in BRAC Education