On World Radio Day, what is the future for radio?

Happy World Radio Day!

Today is being marked by UNESCO as a celebration of radio, the world’s furthest-reaching method of broadcasting information.

In an age where the internet seems universal, it’s easy to forget that radio is not only the oldest, but most accessible form of broadcasted media. Even in developing countries, over 75 per cent of homes have a radio set, and there are an estimated 2.4 billion sets worldwide.

But what about the state of radio in Britain? Where will it go in the next century? And is radio being phased out by new technologies?

Admittedly, we are far from the wartime days in which the whole family would religiously gather round the wireless of an evening, but radio has its own foothold in our daily lives nevertheless.

Radio will always have a unique position in that it can be consumed casually; to the point that it’s only on in the background. This is particularly useful when driving, working or doing anything that requires most of your attention.

Accessible broadcasting

It’s also the most accessible broadcasting method, given the cheapness of personal, portable radios and wide-ranging digital technology. This means you can tune into the radio in remote locations which are beyond the reach of TV signals or broadband.

Internet radio stations without recorded music can be set up by anyone with a microphone and internet. The recent podcasting craze can be seen as an extension of home-made radio.

Alongside efforts from the general public, the quality and range of professional radio has continued to expand since the first broadcast of BBC Radio on December 23rd 1922. There are now over 350 regional and national stations (excluding ‘community’ radio which broadcasts to the immediate area) and that number includes a station for seemingly every niche, taste and interest. They range from Kerrang! and to the all-in one wonder machine that is BBC Radio 4.

Seriously though, there is no channel quite like Radio 4.

A cherished medium

In the early 2000’s, when the internet was becoming more prominent, there were fears that television would fade into obscurity, dragging its distant cousin radio down with it.

Nowadays, however, most homes own several radios, TVs and computers. Each of these industries have continued expanding since their inception, with radio especially continuing to thrive- there’s no such thing as bad daytime radio, after all.

In 1995, the BBC launched DAB digital radio, and huge investments have since been made in the technology nationwide. Now there are 25 nationwide digital channels, with the top 10 having a combined total of 76.5 million listeners per week.

British radio has a permanent place in our cars, workplaces and kitchens; it has diversity, range and innovation, and a populous, loyal audience.

I don’t think we have to worry about it fading into obscurity any time soon!

Read more about World Radio Day here. What is your favourite radio programme or network? What do you love about radio? What is its future? Have your say in the comments section below.