World Radio Day 2021

On February 13th, Unesco celebrated the 10th anniversary of World Radio Day (#WRD2021) and I was asked to contribute to the annual event by Decentred Media and the Documentary Media Centre in Leicester. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a great advocate of the power of radio to build confidence, skills and aspiration in terms of learning. I myself earned a HNC while at a community station and along with peers went on to study for other qualifications, which eventually led me to University.

World Radio Day is one of the key dates in the annual calendar for anyone working in radio. It is a global celebration that brings together those who love, listen to and continue to advocate radio as a key source of information and pleasure and champion its accessibilty across the digital divide. In 2021, Unesco describe radio as ‘a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse’. Over the last 12 months, these values have become more important in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the UK alone, research shows that communities looking for local information and needing to connect with volunteer networks during the pandemic have turned to community radio stations (Meccsa 3D). Whereas my own social media profiles have shown those seeking more detail on specific subjects, or just looking to escape while walking or exercising during lockdowns, have turned to podcasts.

#WRD2021 focussed on three main themes which included:

  • Evolution: The world changes, radio evolves. 
    This sub-theme refers to the resilience of the radio, to its sustainability;
  • Innovation: The world changes, radio adapts and innovates. 
    Radio has had to adapt to new technologies to remain the go-to medium of mobility, accessible everywhere and to everyone;
  • Connection: The world changes, radio connects.
    This sub-theme highlights radio’s services to our society—natural disasters, socio-economic crises, epidemics, etc. 
    (Unesco 2021)

I completed my PhD in 2019, which investigated implementations of the social gain policy in practice. Social Gain is a key element of all community radio licences and must be demonstrated annually by every community station in the UK. I concluded that social gain must be reconsidered in the context of the 21st century to retain social benefits at its core, whether operations remain over the air, or move online.  Therefore, I was asked to host a panel for #WRD2021 which was loosely based around the concept of strengthening social gain.

It was a very interesting discussion and featured three inspiring women working in community radio, bringing local politics and politicians to the community (Charmaine Burton), sharing community stories of migration (Dr. Rachel Ann Charles) and working to highlight the oral history of their adopted community (Leona Fensome). Joining these women was a Policy Officer from Leicester City Council (Juan Pardo) who experienced community radio in his native Spain. The discussion concluded that community radio needs to be highlighted for its social value and its ability to be produced on a shoestring and accessed by local, national and international audiences online. The participants agreed that with a rise of nationalism, a reframing of the term community in contemporary contexts is needed, as despite a shift in focus to local, there are transnational communities which straddle borders. Community radio continues to evolve and connect people through digital  technologies, shining a light on issues shared by transnational communities despite their geographical distance. However, we shouldn’t forget that whilst these innovations make content more accessible for some, it also excludes those without digital literacy skills or the economic means to get online. Therefore, the argument of re-framing social gain as we move into the 21st century remains a key issue for community radio policy makers.

This #WRD2021 on strengthening social gain can be found on the Decentred Media website which can be accessed through the interactive links at the top of the page.