EDITORIAL : A radio celebration

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Guess what everyone?!?  It is World Radio Day! Yippee!  So, pop the champagne and celebrate that you live in a country that has radio and that it is accessible by all.  
In case you are one of the very few who do not know what World Radio Day is all about, then continue reading and we will fill you in.  The United Nations has identified February 13th as a day to celebrate all the good that is radio and its unique power to reach out and touch people’s lives directly.  It was proclaimed on 3 November 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) 36th General Conference upon prompting by the Kingdom of Spain.  The date was chosen on the anniversary of the day that the United Nations established United Nations Radio in 1946.
This is the sixth celebration of the World Radio Day, and this year’s theme centres around sport, in particular, women in sports.  According to UNESCO, today is “a chance to strengthen diversity, peace and development through sports broadcasting.”  With the Winter Olympics currently underway in South Korea, the theme is apt (and very likely planned).
We are big supporters of sport and try to push the sport agenda through our news and sports shows on OBSERVER Radio as often as we can.  Like UNESCO, we believe that sports anchors us in our communities and creates inspiring stories that cross gender and other stereotypes.  That inspiration serves to propel our people and to allow them to believe in their capabilities.  Sports are not only about world-class athletes and the Olympics, and neither is radio.  It is about our communities and how we interact with each other.  
For this year, the focus is on sports broadcasting and the gender imbalance that promotes male sports over female sports.  It is a topic that can be as complex as you want it to be, but the facts are hard to ignore.  According to UNESCO, “women represent just 7% of sportspeople seen, heard or read about in the media.”  And, “Only 4% of sports stories focus primarily on women.”  If that is not bad enough, they state that “even when women’s sports are covered, the differences in quality can be striking.”
While we do not have statistics available locally on the subject, we can readily agree that female representation in sports media in Antigua and Barbuda is not where it should be.   We can talk about the “culture” and the “number of participants” and a host of other factors but there can be little argument against the fact that we should be doing a better job in our coverage of women in sports.  It is unfortunate that this push seems to be from the top down, but in the end, it matters little.  We will do our part, and we would like to invite our listeners to our programmes to demand more of us as it relates to coverage of women in sports.  Working together, we can begin to affect the positive change.
In his address to the world, U.N. Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, made the point that regardless of the advances in technology and communications, “radio reaches the widest audience in the world!”  There is simply no other mass communication medium that is as accessible and affordable.   The strength of radio lies in its power to “unite and empower communities.” It gives voice to the marginalised.  It gives a voice to the people.
Radio in our bit of paradise gets taken for granted, but we should all be cognisant of the fact that the access that we experience today was not always so free.  There was a time when the electronic media was controlled by the politicians and dissenting voices were not welcome on the airwaves.  The people were fed a daily dose of propaganda, with the sole purpose of keeping the fat cats and politicians at the top of the food chain, by keeping the people ignorant of what was going on around them.  It is why despots around the world control the radio waves.  Without absolute control of the radio waves, the truth will slip out.
But radio is more than news and politics.  The essence of radio is education. The freedom and right to communicate must not ever be allowed to slip from our grasps again.  The internet is held out as the model of free speech but it adds layers of complications and barriers that do not exist in the world of broadcast radio. Plus, we have seen the manipulation of the internet for nefarious causes on too many occasions.  
So join us in celebrating the most popular and enjoyable media format in our neck of the woods.  Celebrate Radio!.  
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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