13th February is a date proclaimed by UNESCO to celebrate the medium of radio broadcast through ‘World Radio Day’.
2023 will be the twelfth edition of World Radio Day around the theme of ‘Radio and Peace’. UNESCO say “in the context of ongoing wars in several parts of the world, an increased number of migrants due to conflicts, growing polarisation in societies and violent extremism, this edition aims to showcase radio’s work to keep bringing news and entertainment to populations even in difficult situations…
Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At a global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard.”
Despite being over 100 years old, radio is one of the most popular ways to exchange information, provide social interchange, and educate people all over the world.
1920 – the first wireless radio broadcast in the UK took place, conducted by Guglielmo Marconi. On 15th June a song recital by Dame Nellie Melba was broadcast using a telephone transmitter and was heard in a number of different countries.
1922 – the BBC was formed and by the mid 1920s most of the UK population could listen to BBC radio programmes.
1933 – frequency modulated, or FM, radio was used for the first time, improving signal by addressing the static caused by electrical equipment and the earth’s atmosphere.
1939 – after the start of the second world war, the BBC replaced regional medium wave broadcasts with the Home Service; this meant enemy aircraft could not use local transmissions to navigate their way around the UK air space. The Home Service continued to broadcast beyond the end of the war, until it was replaced by Radio 4 in 1967.
1954 – the first commercial transistor radio was sold allowing people to listen to radio on the move.
1960s – to get around UK broadcast licensing rules, the first ‘pirate radio’ stations began to operate from ships anchored just outside British waters; one of the best-known pirate stations was Radio Caroline.
1967 – 30th September the BBC launched Radio 1; a new national radio station aimed at the same young audiences the pirate stations had set out to reach. Radio 1 mostly played pop music and employed several ex-pirate disc jockeys.
1973 – the UK’s first commercial radio station was launched. The London Broadcasting Company (LBC) broadcast news and features 24 hours a day and was the nation’s first station to be funded predominantly by advertising.
1992 – national commercial radio is launched, after the 1990 Broadcasting Act allowing for the launch of ‘independent national radio’ stations in the UK. Three licences were awarded to Classic FM, Virgin Radio in 1993 and Talk Radio in 1995.
1995 – the BBC carried out its first digital audio broadcasting (DAB) broadcasts, for Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 5.
2002 – the BBC launched its first digital-only radio stations.
2018 – digital listening overtakes analogue listening.
2020 – a hundred years on from Marconi’s broadcast, almost two-thirds of radio listening in the UK is done over digital radio. During World Radio Day, radio stations all around the world put on special shows and segments to mark the occasion and celebrate radio and the meaning it holds for people across the globe.