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International Radio Day Celebrating An Enduring Medium Of Communication

by Vincent Gasana
4:42 pm

Today is international radio day, yes, it seems everything has an international day, these days, so much so that you may demand to know why you don’t have your own international day. And you may, if you can show that you have as much effect on people’s lives as does a simple radio set.

It has become an integral part of everyday life that people barely notice it, yet many would find doing without it unthinkable, even cruel.

Like all scientific discoveries, it is difficult to say who really discovered radio. The accepted discoverer of the radio was the young electrical engineer, Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi, in 1895. Marconi used radio waves to transmit morse code, and the instrument he used became known as the radio.

Marconi would however, not have been able to arrive at his discovery, had it not been for German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, who conclusively proved the existence of electromagnetic waves, in nature. Hertz himself was informed by Scottish physicist and polymath, James Clerk Maxwell. Look closely on your radio dial, if it has one, and you will see hertz. The unit of frequency, was so named, to honour the man who proved it.

Today, life would be unimaginable without radio. According to United Nations figures, around 40,000 radio stations, broadcast to upwards of five billion people. That is 70% of the world’s population. These broadcasts encompass almost every aspect of people’s lives, from entertainment, news, education, to a general information service about all manner of areas.

  During the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic for instance, radio was literally a life saver, informing people how to protect themselves from the virus, it was instrument for education, when lessons were broadcast on radio, during school closures. For many people, the elderly in particular, radio is often their only company, their only connection to the outside world and the rest of society.

As one apocryphal letter from an elderly person shows, a radio set can be the only friend, an environment that maybe deemed unfriendly.

You can listen to the radio anywhere. In the bathroom, in the field, relaxing in the garden. Drivers are now used to the idea of “drive time”, to keept them informed, during rush hour.

Governments can use radio for good or for ill. The Nazis in Germany used radio to spread their propaganda and murderous ideology. In Rwanda, one radio station became an instrument of mass murder, as the planners and perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, used the notorious RTLM hate radio, to spread hate, urging on the killers.

As one radio became synonymous with mass murder, another, Radio Muhabura could be identified with the forces that ended the genocide, calling for unity among Rwandans.

Radio has remained relevant, even with the advent of the digital revolution, with new gadgets like the mobile telephone, tablets, computers, the radio has held its own.

Radio is a trusted form of communication, that reaches more people than any other medium. It is affordable, so that the poorest in any community, with no internet connection, or television sets, can still be connected to the world beyond their locality.

Governments can use radio for good or for ill. The Nazis in Germany used radio to spread their propaganda and murderous ideology. In Rwanda, one radio station became an instrument of mass murder, as the planners and perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, used the notorious RTLM hate radio, to spread hate, urging on the killers.

President Paul Kagame(R) then commander of RPA Inkotanyi in an interview with Muhabura jorunalist

As one radio became synonymous with mass murder, another, Radio Muhabura could be identified with the forces that ended the genocide, calling for unity among Rwandans.

The first radio broadcast was sent by Marconi himself in 1897, more than a century later, radio is still the most popular form of communication. It is difficulty to imagine generations to come not celebrating International Radio Day.

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