[NEWS AND VIEWS]
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December 06, 2003Radio ga-ga. Talk on WSIS tends to focus on the benefits of the internet, but some feel that the importance of radio - which remains a vital source of communication and information - is being overshadowed. Daily Summit has been speaking to some of the organisations working to have radio's role pushed harder at the summit.
"Radio is at the heart of the Information Society" - that's the message from one NGO attending the summit, Panos. There has been a lot of interest and investment in the new information and communication technologies, but Francesca Silvani, Panos Director of Radio argues that radio should be higher up the agenda at WSIS - saying "radio is still the most accessed information and communication technology. It reaches an estimated 80% of the global population - which is far above the percentage of internet penetration". She explained, "radio is still the cheapest and most easily accessible way for people to access the media - it provides a platform for ordinary people and is a powerful medium for generating discussion and debate".
As a producer for the BBC World Service, I was recently in South Africa where we were producing reports about HIV/Aids. One morning, whilst setting up our broadcast equipment outside of Johannesburg, a man came up to me to ask what we were doing. I told him we were about to do a live interview for the World Service. His eyes lit up and he touched my shoulder and said "thank you" - he was from Bulgaria, and he explained to me how the World Service Radio had been the only source of information he could trust during the 1980s before the fall of the Soviet Union. "It was our lifeline", he explained.
And he is just one of over 150 million listeners which the BBC World Service Radio reaches, in 43 different languages. The largest audiences are based in Africa for both the BBC World Service, and for another international broadcaster - Voice of America. VOA has 94 million people tuning into its 1,000 hours a week of news and information broadcasts in 55 different languages. Tish King, spokesperson for VOA, told Daily Summit, "radio is the backbone of our broadcasting network, and is the critical way for us to reach our audience around the world". And it's not just developing countries which tune into the radio. In the UK for example, radio audiences are reaching a record high level with almost 44 million adult listeners a week which, according to a Rajar spokesman, means that around 90% of the British population tune into some form of radio programme each week.
The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters will also be present at WSIS and are pushing for strong community media support at the summit and have asked that the Draft Declaration of Principles be amended to include the paragraph: "Community, independent and plural mass media are important means of providing access to public information, fostering public involvement and promoting societal development and social cohesion".