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by Wayne Campbell
Radio is the oldest, most popular electronic medium, which was introduced to Jamaica in the 1930s. Those of us who are old enough will remember a time in Jamaica when we only had 2 radio stations:
RJR and JBC. In 1939, the first broadcast in Jamaica was transmitted via a shortwave “ham” operated unit from the Seaview Avenue home of John Grinan.
After May 1, 1940, a small staff was employed and daily broadcasts began on June 3, 1940. Interestingly, the Second World War began in 1939 and ended in 1945.
The call sign was VP5PZ and offered wartime news and information for a half-hour once a week. The first radio station VP5PZ later became ZQI in 1940 and broadcast for ten years.
A licence was granted in 1949 to the Jamaica Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of the Re-diffusion Group, London. This licence gave the company the right to operate regular broadcasting and rediffusion services, and the Jamaica Broadcasting Company took over the operations of ZQI on May 1, 1950. Commercial broadcasting began on July 9, 1950, using the call sign, “Radio Jamaica and the Re-diffusion Network”, and the well-known RJR was born.
Since those early days the media landscape has diversified resulting in numerous radio stations providing island wide coverage as on a national scale as well community based.
The diversification of the media landscape also led to the establishment of the Caribbean’s premier institution for the training media practitioners, the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) which was founded in 1974 on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies.
The period 1988 to1992 were very exciting times for radio in particular, for it was being transformed by the introduction of niche programming. During that period, five new services were licensed, among which stations were fashioned around the genres of religion and reggae.
Jamaica currently has 29 radio stations which provide both limited and island wide coverage.
Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO) and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day (WRD).
Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out to the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity and stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard.
Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organisations and operations.
Radio and Trust
Building on more than a century of history, radio remains one of the most trusted and widely used media. Throughout the years, radio has provided affordable access to information in real time and professional coverage about matters of public interest, as well as guaranteed distance learning and entertainment. Bridging the gap between traditional and state-of-the art technologies, radio now offers a variety of content through different devices and formats, such as podcasts and multimedia websites.
Recent world events and the COVID-19 pandemic have eroded trust in the media in general, fuelled by the circulation of false content rapidly spreading on social media. But while studies reveal a global decline in trust in the internet and social networks, they show a rise in overall trust in the news. Many citizens still have greater confidence in radio than in other media.
Digital access to information is far from being equal, with huge differences remaining between regions and between communities. In comparison, radio remains affordable and can be listened to everywhere, even when electricity or connectivity are not reliable. It is also diverse and inclusive.
Community radio, for instance, reaches out to those underrepresented in the mainstream and social media, who may feel better understood and fairly portrayed and consequently trust their local station.
For many persons the radio serves as a companion. In most Jamaican homes you find one or two battery powered radios commonly called transistor radios.
Our radios are only a fingertip away either on the night table, a desk or the dresser. The relatively inexpensive cost of radios makes this a favourite among electronic communication.
Radio is especially important in the lives of those who are unable to read. The interactive nature of talk shows is another dimension to this mass medium of communication.
Additionally, the versatility of the radio is especially significant during times of natural disasters. Most of us in Jamaica will recall hurricane Gilbert and how the nation was provided around the clock coverage after electricity went.
On the occasion of World Radio Day 2022, UNESCO calls on radio statiowns to celebrate the Day through three sub-themes. These are: Trust in radio journalism: produce independent and high-quality content. Secondly, trust and accessibility: Take care of your audience and trust and viability of radio stations: ensure competitiveness.
Undoubtedly, the media landscape continues to change dramatically with the emergence of new media; however, nothing will replace the radio.
Let us celebrate World Radio Day.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. [email protected] yahoo.com @WayneCamo © #InternationalRadioDay #WorldRadioDay #WRD Editor’s note: World Radio Day was celebrated on Sunday, February 13, 2022