12 February 2021

World Radio Day celebrates the contribution of radio to our society and the power of radio to touch lives. This year we mark the 10th anniversary of this international day. Observed annually on 13 February, World Radio Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of broadcast radio, support access to information, and improve networking and international cooperation in the field of radio communications.

This year’s observance is particularly significant, given the role that radio broadcasters are playing the battle against COVID-19. As the fight against the pandemic continues, radio has been a close companion for many around the world, with broadcasters curating trustworthy information, countering misinformation and providing much-needed entertainment during lockdowns. Perhaps most important of all, broadcast radio has enabled children and adults alike to access distance learning, and thus continue their education without interruption.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, media consumption has grown considerably. Radio broadcasters have observed both an increase in listening time as well as an expanding younger audience. While fewer people are listening from their cars or on the road, more are tuning in from home and from their mobile devices.

For over a century, broadcast radio has been a trusted source of information in times of crisis.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) aims to improve communications and access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), including broadcast radio, through the harmonious development of telecommunication and radiocommunication tools. These processes are at the heart of ITU work. Throughout our 156-year history, ITU has played a crucial role in advancing radio by establishing and updating international regulations and standards on the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. ITU is the custodian of the global treaty on spectrum management, known as the ITU Radio Regulations, which facilitate equitable access to and rational use of the spectrum and promote interference-free operations of radiocommunication systems. The Regulations cover fixed and mobile radio services, satellite systems, radio and TV broadcasting, radio navigation, meteorological monitoring, space research and Earth exploration, as well as amateur radio services. They also prescribe how radio equipment and systems must operate to ensure efficient and effective coexistence and utilization of today's increasingly crowded airwaves.

As we celebrate the 10th World Radio Day, let’s take a closer look at the ITU contribution to radio, with the theme “New World, New Radio” in mind.

EVOLUTION: In 1895, Alexander Popov sent and received a wireless signal across 600 metres. In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio signal, and in 1906, Aubrey Fessenden made the world’s first broadcast of voice and music. Since its inception, radio broadcasting has developed into a singularly popular form of media, with the important social role of disseminating information, entertainment and educational material to vast audiences. For over a century, broadcast radio has been a trusted source of information in times of crisis. Radio broadcasting has also adapted to the rapidly evolving technological landscape, and remains one of the most dynamic, responsive and engaging media. ITU provides a platform from which radiocommunication experts develop recommendations that enable countries to efficiently operate their radio broadcast systems. These recommendations include transmission standards for terrestrial digital sound broadcasting to vehicular, portable and fixed receivers, as well as requirements for enhanced multimedia services and audio definition models.

A communications tower. Photo by Republica from Pixabay

INNOVATION: A variety of innovative satellite technologies present a new frontier for expanding the reach of radio. Satellite communications already provide affordable connectivity to people in rural and remote areas. Every four years, delegates from ITU Member States gather for the World Radiocommunication Conference to deliberate and agree on ways to expand access to the radio spectrum. Decisions taken at the conference are key to enabling countries to harness the wide area coverage, reliability and resilience offered by emerging technologies. Recent years have seen new technologies expanding radio’s reach. Whereas yesterday’s radio was simply a transistor on our kitchen tables, nowadays the radio is a standard accessory in our cars and embedded in our smartphones.

CONNECTION: One of primary mandates of ITU is to ensure interference-free operations of radiocommunication systems worldwide. In these difficult times, radio broadcasting is one of the most effective ways of delivering timely, relevant and practical information to people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadcasting is particularly useful in situations where physical access is difficult and aid responders may take several days or weeks to reach affected communities. Appropriate information and advice, delivered in a user-friendly way, can help people cope with the crisis and mitigate immediate threats to their well-being. Direct communication via radio can also help to reduce the sense of isolation and helplessness that crisis-affected communities and individuals often experience.

Radio broadcast is one of the most accessible and inclusive means of disseminating information. Low-cost radio devices combined with the extensive coverage of radio-signals that encompass around 75 per cent of households worldwide allow it to reach populations regardless of literacy levels.

As the world and radio change, ITU will continue to serve as the primary steward of global airwaves, ensuring that we can connect to one another safely, sustainably and innovatively for centuries to come.


Click here to watch an official video highlighting the themes of World Radio Day 2021.

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