Reflections on an interview with Noel Curran, EBU Director General, by Liz Corbin, EBU Deputy Director, Media, and Head of News, for the occasion of UNESCO World Radio Day, 13 February 2023.
United Nations Radio was established on 13 February 1946 and in 2011 UNESCO proclaimed this day as the World Radio Day (WRD). This came as a unanimously approved decision by all their members at the UN General Assembly that year. The reason to celebrate radio was to strengthen its importance and popularity, it is flexible and easy to produce while reaching remote areas and diverse social groups. Being one of the most trusted sources of information, it is also secure which is crucial especially in the age of disinformation and fake news, and it is relatively easy to broadcast under all circumstances, including emergency, war or other conflicts.
The WRD topic for 2023 is “Radio and Peace”. This resonates with the upcoming first anniversary of the war in Ukraine. Liz Corbin, EBU Deputy Director Media and Head of News, sat down with Noel Curran, EBU Director General, to talk about the role of radio in preventing conflict and sustaining peace, but also about the importance of public service media in strengthening democracy, the motivation to never give up on investing in high quality unbiased information, and about the value and future of audio content in the online environment.
This is an invitation to welcome you to take a couple of minutes of your time, and listen to the full interview.
As a teaser rather than a spoiler, here are five things to take away from the conversation.
Despite celebrating 100 years, Noel emphasizes that “We shouldn't just think of radio as the old grandfather grandmother sitting in the corner”. Radio is dynamic, constantly reinventing itself and producing new formats that are popular especially among young generations.
“Radio has a unique connection with the audience, it always had, partly because it's so easily accessible to people. It has been here for a hundred years, it's part of people's lives”. Radio scores the highest ranking as the most trusted medium and this is crucial especially in providing the space for dialogue, helping listeners understand conflicts and navigate situations that are challenging and complex.
The distribution and presence of radio across all connected devices needs to be protected especially during emergency situations. The future of terrestrial broadcast is there as well as innovating the means of distribution across all connected devices including connected dashboards.
Noel is very explicit in claiming that “When countries move away from democracy, […] government dictators, autocrats, wherever they may be, they see public service media, they see trusted news, they see independent journalism as a threat. We've seen that historically and we see it today.” Based on the comprehensive research carried out by EBU as well as other independent institutions, healthy environment for public service media is a condition for strong democracy. If democracy is threatened, public service media tend to be among the first targets to be weakened.
Not all media have the power to remind oneself about the warm atmosphere of home, bring back the recollections of your childhood and the moments of togetherness and shared time in the kitchen or elsewhere with your family while having your favourite radio station or podcast playing in the background. Probably everybody has their own family radio station that was almost on default on in their households. For Noel “Radio is homely, we always listened to more radio when I was growing up than we watched TV so there's always that kind of childhood.”
But radio is also dynamic, there is a lot of creativity and innovation happening, podcasting and the on-demand audio content is one of the most progressive type of media content currently.
What are your five words you connect with radio? And what is your most favourite place to listen to audio content? It may be a good way to celebrate the World Radio Day today in the company of your favourite radio stations or a podcast. Enjoy the sound of it!