August 2000
A unique medium?

The Unique value of radio

A medium which travels well.

Television may be the big brother now but it ties you down. Which led us this month at a time when many people are on vacation to think a little about the unique qualities of radio, one of which is that it travels so well.
By that we don't just mean that you can listen whilst driving, big benefit though that it, but also the geographical cover of radio.
At the moment there are limitations in terms of local stations but pretty well anywhere in the world anyone with a reasonable quality portable receiver can pick up a good range of international broadcasts and as technology improves they may well be able to get their local FM station from back home on their mobile phone. On top of that, of course, there'll soon be two satellite radio channels on the air in the US and if they're successful, other versions are sure to follow elsewhere in the world.

And it enables multitasking.

Moving onto another tack, it's not only driving you can do whilst listening to the radio. You don't have to look at a damned screen as you do with television so the medium has great benefits of being useful whilst you're doing other things. And it's pretty versatile too: You an be keeping up with events or be warned of them via traffic services; you can immerse yourself in a story in some countries at least where radio drama continues the ages old heritage of aural story telling; or you can pick up music, or foreign language stations an so many more choices, all without needing significant power supplies

The medium in an emergency!
And that lack of demand on power does, of course, mean that radio outshines pretty well all other media in a major emergency. If the power supplies have gone, TV is rather limited, but anyone with a battery portable (or a wind-up clockwork radio) can still keep an ear on developments and indeed on vital information about what they need to do for safety reasons and so on.

Oral and aural!
And of course, the fact that radio is an aural and oral medium has some other benefits. For the blind or those with impaired sight it can be a tremendous boon but to someone with 20-20 vision it stimulates in a different way. The eyes tend to be literal; the hearing can spur the imagination in so many areas.
And you don't need much special or expensive equipment to do so. Movie special effects may be stunning but they're always someone else'. Audio
effects on the other hand, are always a little bit your own. Even someone you know very well, in listening to the same programme will create different pictures and associations in the same way that in reading literature we always put something of ourselves into building the characters -- and thus get something more out for ourselves.

Intimate and enveloping!

Radio is thus both intimate and enveloping as well as being involving. It can be very intimate in that it can draw our own experiences without putting in too much detail. At the same time it is enveloping in the sense that there is always a background knowledge that the individual listener is also part of a community of listeners.
The two together can also make it a much more involving medium than a medium which has a visual element.
Long may this last. One wonders, in the same way as realizing that black and white photographs would probably not have got far if colour had always been available, how far radio development would have been curbed if television had been around first. But as with black and white which can emphasise shape and form without colour getting in the way, radio has unique characteristics which make it a worthy medium in its own right whatever gadgetry and technology may come along.
So when you are on holiday, in the same way that you might well read a different book, paper or magazine try going through the dial a bit. Or in the office do the same on the company's Internet connection if you can. You never know but the diversity you find could lead you in both unexpected and pleasurable directions!.e

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