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On radio day, practitioners restate need for more sensitisation on COVID-19 pandemic

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Radio broadcasting

Broadcasters, presenters, commentators and other stakeholders in the media space, on World Radio Day 2021, restated the need to use radio to sensitise citizens on observing COVID-19 protocols especially at a time when a new strain of the virus has been discovered.

With the theme: ‘New World, New Radio’, the practitioners also harped on the need to use radio for learning continuity, fight against misinformation and promoting democracy.

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Proclaimed in 2011 by the member states of UNESCO and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day (WRD).

According to the United Nations, “radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse.”

The organisation said that at the global level, radio remained the most widely consumed medium.

“This unique ability to reach out to the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard. Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organisations and operations,” said the global body. “The organisation celebrates radio as part of humanity’s history by following various developments in society and adapting its services.”

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It said, “as the world changes, so do radio. ‘New World, New Radio’ is, therefore, an ode to the resilience of radio. It is a tribute to its capacity for perpetual adaptation at the rate of societal transformations and listeners’ new needs. Accessible anywhere and anytime, radio reaches a broad audience. It presents itself as an arena where all voices can be expressed, represented and heard, hence, radio is still the most consumed medium worldwide today.”

In her message on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of World Radio Day, Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay, said, “the past year has highlighted the extent to which radio, this young medium, developed some 110 years ago, remains essential to our contemporary societies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of its added value: with a penetration rate of over 75 per cent in developing countries, radio remains the most accessible medium. That is why it has been a key tool for our action in response to the crisis.

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“It has helped to save lives by making it possible to relay health instructions, make reliable information accessible and combat hate speech. UNESCO has harnessed its potential by producing royalty-free audio messages in 56 languages and offering them to radio stations around the world to counter false rumours.

“It has also enabled continuity of learning for populations that could only be reached through such means. UNESCO, with the Global Education Coalition, has thus developed effective teaching over the airwaves. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our organisation has developed and disseminated educational content for more than four million learners, broadcast on community radio stations.”

She said radio remains an essential medium that proves its resilience on a daily basis, along with its capacity for innovation. “In this century of images, radio accompanies our mornings and our evenings and mirrors the thoughts of a world that must be heard to be understood. With the creation of Internet radio, podcasts, smartphones and new technologies, it is truly blossoming in its second youth.

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Azoulay said the day “affirms the central role of radio, for today and tomorrow, because, more than ever, we need this universal humanist medium, a vector of freedom. Without radio, the right to information and freedom of expression and, with them, fundamental freedoms would be weakened, as would cultural diversity, since community radio stations are the voices of the voiceless.

“On this World Day, UNESCO calls on everyone – audiences, radio broadcasters and audiovisual professionals – to celebrate radio and its values and to promote reliable information as a common good.”

In Nigeria, radio broadcasting has evolved from the British colonial re-diffusion centre of 1937 through federal and state government-controlled enterprise to a dynamic industry with strong private sector participation. Currently, there are over 135 licensed radio stations, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) with 40 individual stations, over 63 state-owned stations (on AM & FM bands), 60 privately-owned stations, 27 campus radio and nine community stations.

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Ag. Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission NBC, Armstrong Aduku Idachaba, in his speech to commemorste the day, held every February 13, said “radio broadcasting has come to stay. The dynamics of radio have changed, severally. Times were when radio was basically for information and news but since then, radio has metamorphosed and changed its sphere of character and influence in several ways. Today, it is a fact that people cannot live without the radio and radio has become so important in diverse ways. We get hooked on the radio for music, drama, stories on fashion, cooking, gossips, information, dialogue and radio continues to unify humanity. Because of the ubiquitous nature of radio and the fact that it is easily adaptable, people find it very handy and useful companionship.”

Idachaba said, “on this occasion, we’ll continue to promote and advance the good causes of radio broadcasting. Radio should bind humanity more and it should be used for more constructive engagements of human existence.”

Regrettably, he observed that people use radio for inciting comments, provocative messages and promoting hate.

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“These are not positive vales of radio broadcasting. We should use radio positively—to entertain ourselves, promote democracy, promote developments and promote social interactions,” the NBC boss advised.

He said, “In Nigeria, we are glad that radio remains one of the fastest-growing industry. Radio is expanding rapidly even in the local areas. For a population of more than 200 million, the potential of radio continues to increase by the day. We, as regulators, will continue to offer more licenses as long as we see a commitment by licensees to use positively the radio instrument for national development.”

In an interview with The Guardian, Managing Director Radio Services, DAAR Communications Plc and the originator, Faaji FM, Ambrose Somide, said, “if radio had been important, I think the importance was re-emphasised last year at the height of COVID-19 pandemic.”

Somide said till this moment, radio has been used to mobilise, enlighten people and call them to action. “In many countries of the world, radio is a reliable influencer. It goes to the nooks and crannies, especially, developing countries, where the rural population relies on radio more than any other medium, internet penetration is not there and television remains a luxury. For so many people, the transistor radio is a very reliable platform. Many radio stations have to reach people with different languages and dialects on safety and precautions on how to stem the spread of COVID 19.”

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According to him, “there is a great challenge before us as operators of radio and that is the fact that with emphasis that we placed on what people should do, how they live and the precaution they should take and with the news coming on the radio about the casualties in a different part of the world, even in Nigeria, there is a lot of disbelief among the populace. Some still believe COVID-19 is just another strain of malaria while others state it is a disease of the elite. You will be shocked that there are so many people that are so learned, will still tell you there is nothing like COVID-19. So, if you have that level of disbelief, then you know that our job is not done as radio practitioners to correct that belief in conspiracy theory, the belief in 5G, or the belief that COVID 19 is a western disease and we need to double up as media men to continue enlightening our people, because this time around, it is not the ignorance of not going to school, it is the ignorance of knowing and not believing! And that is very bad.”

Similarly, the acting Head of Department (HOD), Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Adepoju Tejumaiye, said the role of radio in the new world is to continue to be a mass educator.

Citizens, he argued, needed to be constantly informed about the new normal and need to abide by or with the dictates of the time. “The world has really changed, therefore, human beings also need to change with the new normal. Radio via its programming needs to up its task of informing the citizens via new stories, documentaries, drama, magazines programmes, news analysis, features, interviews and even in the form of public service announcement.”

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Relatedly, MD Sweet FM, Mr. Eddy Aina, stated that radio has a particular value that others do not, in terms of reach. It is very pervasive, immediate and it cuts across barriers of language and illiteracy up to the extent that even herders go about with their transistor radios. So it is now the most important information dissemination instrument that you can have. It is very cheap and people can relate to it easily.”

He added that unlike before, radio now has an important feedback mechanism. “It is a bridge between the government and the people and government policies are easily assimilated via the radio. Sadly, people use radio to disseminate fake news and issues that can make the country toxic. This is why NBC, of recent, has been apt in relating to radio stations because it feels what callers and analysts say on the radio can go a long away to cause trouble.”

Recalling the Rwandan experience in 1994, when radio was used to call another tribe cockroaches, he noted that within weeks, more than 800,000 people were killed. Radio is very sensitive and at the moment, “it has gone online because of the commercial aspect. Most people now establish radio stations online. On any given day, the radio will still remain radio. In post-COVID-19 lockdown, it will still be used to ensure that the economy recovers, fully. Recall that this administration witnessed two recessions and we need to use radio to communicate to people on how to innovate and how to ensure that start-ups are encouraged.”

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