Opening presentation by the Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, Thailand.
Last month was my first opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (www.abu.org.my). It was a really interesting time: with people from 33 countries gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss what’s happening in radio today. There were radio trainers, managers, presenters, and even government officials; quite a wide range of delegates.
One consensus that came from the conference is that radio is here to stay. So if you’ve heard depressing claims that radio is old-hat, old-fashioned, going the way of the dinosaur…don’t believe it! Technological development may have changed the face of radio—for example, digital radio changes how people listen, and Facebook changes how people interact with stations. But radio itself is good for the long-term.
Some of the reasons that radio will be here when other types of media fade into history are:
- It is intensely personal. A lot of the speakers at the conference gave examples of how this is seen in practical ways, and how it impacts the relationship of the station with listeners. For example: community radio (Hong Kong), programmes for migrant workers (Macau), youth radio (Malaysia).
- It is innovative. Ms Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, described some interesting content creation in Australia: an outdoor digital ad was synchronised with an interactive poster, so that listeners would hear the ad as they walked past the poster. In Thailand, COOLfarenheit93FM has a music request programme that allows listeners to collect loyalty points, which are turned into money that the station gives to charity.
- It is interactive. Forget the old song request programmes where listeners call the station. Or rather, don’t forget them! 61% of listeners interact with their radio stations via social media, and this is a brilliant way to collect song requests at the same time as boosting social media rankings for the station’s page—and exposing listeners to new programmes and interesting alternative content.
- It is the medium of choice when disaster strikes. In Japan, which has seen a lot of large-scale disasters in the previous dozen years, NHK announcers are trained to respond to emergencies of many types, in many ways, including pre-disaster warnings (typhoons, floods, tsunamis) and near-aftermath reporting (casualty figures, location of relief supplies or assistance personnel). And, of course long-term recovery can also benefit from the strategic, compassionate, and practical input of radio presenters who seek to help people cope with loss, recover from trauma, rebuild businesses, and more.
For these reasons and many others, we can tip our hats to those negative types that say radio is dead. We can smile sweetly at them as we turn away, and say, “Nope! Radio is here to stay!”