Since its invention in 1895, radio has been and continues to be a major medium of communicaiton with the public. The World Radio Day, being celebrated around the world every February 13, is an occasion to appreciate radio’s contributions and how it can still play an important part in the progress of civilization.
Bangladesh has much to thank radio, which has been pivotal in helping the nation achieve independence. Shadhin Bangla Betar’s contribution to liberation efforts during the war in 1971 is a well-documented story. At one point, it was the sole point of large-scale information dissemination in the new country.
Forty six years later, with a plethora of media options and communication devices available, how does the radio industry ensure its relevance?
R, the Mothership, also known as Rushnaf Wadud, who has worked as Head of Programs and Content at Radio Shadhin 92.4 FM from 2012 till very recently, thinks that radio as a medium of communication is going to stay relevant. However, the extent of relevance depends on how much time and innovation broadcasters invest in creating interesting content that connects with the audience.
“I’ve been asked this and similar questions a lot. I’ll ask you a question – when you watch post-apocalyptic movies like ‘I am Legend’ or read similar novels, what is the one mode of communication that they use? Radio, right? That’s because radio signals are like cockroaches, meaning that they can survive any adversity. When every other mode of communication goes down, radio survives. That’s how important radio is!” says R.
R observes that radio stations are enjoying an exponential growth in numbers, just like TV stations did a decade ago. But with near-identical program lineups and rotations of RJs practically indistinguishable from one another, hardly any radio station stands out from the crowd. The problem, according to R is that there simply aren’t enough innovators or “brains” as he calls them, so there isn’t an equitable distribution down the line.
Recalling from personal experience, R continues, “During my tenure at Radio Shadhin, we wanted to be discoverers and innovators, aiming to stand out with shows that were relatable and cerebral at the same time. We also avoided needlessly sexualizing our content. And we were successful. For example, Radio Shadhin continues to run a show, ‘Ma er Golpo’, that focuses on stories of mothers and their children. The show, which has broadcasted around 150 episodes till date, featuring both public figures and ordinary citizens, has gained widespread popularity, and won multiple awards.”
“I also believe that greater coverage of women’s sports, on par with the coverage of men’s sports would go a long way in ensuring women empowerment”
He further adds that captivating shows such as this are a result of extensive brainstorming, and a will to make content that stands out. “Radio Foorti’s Bhoot FM on Fridays was so popular that no other radio station would broadcast primetime shows on the same time. We, however, gathered courage and introduced an interactive show focused on cricket named ‘Matha Noshto Cricket’ on the same time slot. Till date, the show has the record number of phone calls interaction in radio in Bangladesh.”
The theme of this year’s World Radio Day is “Radio and Sports”. The three sub themes are: diversity in sports coverage, gender equality in sports coverage, and peace and development through sports coverage.
[caption id="attachment_246645" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Photo: Courtesy
R recalls being a major instigator of the launch of one of the first sports-focused interactive radio shows on Radio Shadhin. He was also associated with last year’s launch of a campaign called “commentator hunt” which welcomed both male and female aspiring commentators to audition and prove themselves. During his tenure, Radio Shadhin also started covering sports events, most notably cricket matches of the Bangladesh team.
“I also believe that greater coverage of women’s sports, on par with the coverage of men’s sports would go a long way in ensuring women empowerment,” he adds.
UNESCO-supported Global Media Monitoring Project found in 2015 that only 12% of sports stories are reported by women. It also found that women represent 7% of sportspeople covered by the media, while 4% of sports stories focus mainly on women.
“Also, during the commentating, the quality of which is good enough to rival any international coverage and include female commentators consisting of former female cricketers, we made sure to pass socially relevant messages associated with initiatives like ‘Rise up for women’ among others to our listeners. This made sure that we achieved two goals at the same time, and this makes radio an example of a medium for spreading peace as both sports and social initiatives both promote peace. ”
R firmly believes the power and potential of radio as an agent of making a positive difference in the society as it has since its invention. Currently, he is the curator and producer of The Mothership, an organization that promotes audio and music arts.