Celebrating the resilience of radio

World Radio Day celebrates the unique power of radio to touch lives and bring people together — even amid crises, disasters, and emergencies.

Observed every year on 13 February, it is also a day to raise awareness among the public and the media of broadcast radio’s importance; to encourage decision makers to enhance access to information through broadcast radio; as well as to improve networking and international cooperation among broadcasters. This year marks over 110 years of radio.

This year’s World Radio Day is particularly significant, given the role that radio broadcasters continue to play in the battle against COVID-19.

As the fight against the pandemic continues, radio has been a close companion for many, with broadcasters curating trustworthy information, fighting misinformation, and providing much-needed entertainment during lockdowns. Perhaps most important of all: broadcast radio has enabled children and adults alike to access distance education for uninterrupted learning.

Improving communications and access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) — including broadcast radio — by harmoniously developing telecommunication and radiocommunication tools and processes lies at the heart of ITU’s work.

Throughout our 156-year history, ITU has played a crucial role in advancing radio by establishing and updating international regulations 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. This treaty facilitates equitable access to and rational use of spectrum, ensures the availability of frequencies provided for distress and safety purposes, and promotes interference-free operations of radiocommunication systems.

The Radio 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 ITU’s contribution to radio with the theme “New World, New Radio” in mind.

Evolution

Experiments with radio transmission began over 175 years ago. In 1895, the Russian professor Alexander Popov sent and received a wireless signal across 600 metres. In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio signal from southwestern England to Newfoundland, Canada.

It was not until 1906 that Aubrey Fessenden made the world’s first broadcast of voice and music. Since its inception, radio broadcasting has developed into one of the most popular 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, reactive, and engaging media.

ITU provides a platform from which radiocommunication experts develop recommendations which enable countries to efficiently operate their radio broadcast systems.

Some of these recommendations include transmission standards for FM sound broadcasting, systems for terrestrial digital sound broadcasting to vehicular, portable, and fixed receivers, and use of international radio for disaster relief (IRDR) frequencies for emergency broadcasts.

Innovation

A variety of innovative satellite technologies present the new frontier to expand 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 in enabling countries to harness the wide area coverage, reliability and resilience offered by emerging technologies.

The portability of radio receivers gives it an advantage over other types of media that require an individual’s full attention, such as television or print.

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. Satellite technology promises to make radio an enduring, innovative form of media accessible everywhere and to everyone.

Connection

One of ITU’s primary mandates is to ensure interference-free operations of radiocommunication systems worldwide. We also strive to ensure protection from harmful interference to frequencies reserved for distress and safety purposes.

In times of emergency and disasters, radio broadcasting is one of the most powerful and effective ways of delivering early warnings and alerting the public to save lives.

Timely, relevant, and practical information to people impacted by a disaster or emergency is a vital form of humanitarian assistance.

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.

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

 

Listen to the ITU Technologized podcast interview of ITU Radiocommunication Bureau Director Mario Maniewicz here.