Radio is you!

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Today is World Radio Day 2017.  You probably did not know that such a day even existed, but it does.  At the 36th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2012, the agency proclaimed World Radio Day on 13 February. It was subsequently adopted as an International Day by the United Nations General Assembly.
For those who do not know, UNESCO is a specialised agency of the United Nations which was created more than a half century ago, with the mission to build the defences of peace in the minds of men.  In its Constitution, it states: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”.
World Radio Day is a way of recognising the importance of radio in community around the world.  It is, without a doubt, the media that reaches the widest audience because of its simplicity and low costs for the average person. World Radio Day is now in its 6th year and the theme this year is “Radio is You!”
According to the official UNESCO website, “Radio is still the most dynamic, reactive and engaging medium there is, adapting to 21st century changes and offering new ways to interact and participate. Where social media and audience fragmentation can put us in media bubbles of like-minded people, radio is uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster positive dialogue for change. By listening to its audiences and responding to their needs, radio provides the diversity of views and voices needed to address the challenges we all face.”
We could not have said it better ourselves and after having read that succinct appraisal of the impact of radio, we reflected on our very own Observer Radio and the role that it has played in our community.
For the younger generation, Observer Radio has always been there.  They know nothing of the time when there was no electronic media that was not owned or controlled by the government or the ruling family of the day, the Birds.  That generation also knows little of the struggle to establish an independent electronic media other than to hear people say that “Observer had to go all the way to Privy Council” to get on air.
That is very true, but it hardly tells the story of the Derrick brothers and their journey to give the people a voice.
Samuel “Fergie” Derrick and his brother Winston, both now deceased, can only be described as “super patriots”.   Their love of country came second only to their families.  Regardless of where their travels took them, their roots were firmly grounded in Antigua & Barbuda and they eventually returned home to what they always referred to as “paradise”.
No matter the struggles and hardships, Fergie and Winston saw Antigua & Barbuda as the greatest place on earth and were dismayed that tribal politics, greed and a myopic view of the world had caused their homeland to be less than it could be.
That patriotic drive and love of country pushed the brothers into media; an area neither had experience.  First there was the innovative Observer by Fax, which led to The Daily Observer and eventually to Observer Radio.
UNESCO says, “Radio informs us and transforms us, through entertainment, information and audience participation.  Having a radio means you are never alone – you always have a friend in radio.”  Either of the Derrick brothers could have penned those words and we all know that Winston Derrick became that friend on radio.  He was “The Voice of the People”.
The road to Observer Radio was tough.  After fulfilling all of the legal requirements to operate a radio station, the brothers were ignored and denied by the powers that be.  The chief Telecommunications Officer, at the time, Campbell “Mickey” Matthew, refused to grant them a license to operate and frustrated them to the point where Fergie and Winston decided to push the boundaries and exercise their constitutional rights.
On September 1, 1996 they began transmitting Observer Radio from Scott’s Hill.  That action did not last beyond a day.  The police were dispatched in large numbers and the radio station was shut down the next day.  All equipment was seized and Observer began a near five-year journey through the judicial system.
From the onset, the Derrick brothers knew that the eventual destination for their constitutional battle would end at the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.  The losing skirmishes at the High Court and the Court of Appeal were viewed as strategy sessions for the one-sided battle at the Privy Council.
The brothers won on March 19 2001 and shortly thereafter, Observer Radio began to deliver on the true promise and potential of radio; something which UNESCO aptly describes as, “specifically suited to reach remote communities and vulnerable people: the illiterate, the disabled, women, youth and the poor, while offering a platform to intervene in the public debate, irrespective of people’s educational level … furthermore, radio has a strong and specific role in emergency communication and disaster relief.”
Looking back, we can see how a strong independent media, and more specifically radio, has delivered a better democracy to our bit of paradise.  Issues that once lingered in the dark now feel the burning light of the media and are pushed to the forefront for public discussion – discussions which are uncensored and contribute to a better educated public.
As well, in time of emergencies, few mediums hold the attention of the public like radio.  When other communication mediums have failed, radio has been the comforting hand to the people.  Our own ‘Serpent’ is now widely considered the calming voice in the storm as he has put his own safety and comfort aside to guide the population thorough the dark storms and the aftermath.  He is known to have said that as long as Observer is on air (during the storm), he will be on air.
We now live in a changing world where social media and the internet are varying how people communicate and receive their information.  At Observer, we see opportunity more than we see challenges.  These new platforms simply allow us more outlets to serve you and continue to shine the light in dark corners, while informing and educating our listeners.   We know that, technological advances aside, the reality is, radio remains the ubiquitous media at this point in time and for the foreseeable future.  It will continue to have a long life, if for no other reasons than its reliability and its cost to the consumer.
So, as we look back, we also look forward, and invite you to celebrate with us on this World Radio Day 2017.  We pledge to continue to keep faithful to our roots and the visions of our founders and we look forward to your continued support in our journey.  And always remember, “Radio is you!”

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