Real Radio – people gonna need it more than ever

Comment from Peter Saxon

“May you live in interesting times,” is often wrongly attributed to an ancient Chinese curse that is apocryphal but has somehow managed to go viral through a most unlikely method: dissemination via fortune cookie. 

Nonetheless it bears out Marshall McLuhan’s maxim, “The medium is the message.”

Of course, radio is not quite as ancient and technologically primitive as that. It’s older than Television and newer than Newspapers yet it’s doing much better than either of them. 

The reason is simply that radio, both commercial and public, has managed to harness new technologies rather than compete against them, while ramping up audience engagement through personality and relevance.

The proof is that commercial revenues continue to grow because advertisers continue to invest in the power of radio to reach big local audiences.

I have little doubt that radio in Australia and around most of the globe will continue to flourish in 2016. Sadly, it will be, at least in part, because “interesting times” are truly upon us.

While Islamic State can and will, most likely, be defeated on the ground in Iraq and Syria they are still able to recruit misfits around the world who claim allegiance while committing atrocities they might otherwise have done for no better reason than that, in their warped minds, the Australian, American or European dream hadn’t quite worked out for them.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which predominantly follows the Sunni branch of Islam and Iran, which is mainly Shi’ite, have entered a dangerous phase of brinksmanship following the beheading of a Shi’ite cleric in Saudi Arabia last week which has inflamed old hatreds and caused both countries to recall their ambassadors and cut off diplomatic relations. This has the potential to further destabilise an already teetering Middle East. The fact that the Saudi’s started 2016 by beheading 47 people and has a woeful track record on women’s rights has been no impediment to upholding their membership on The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Unrest in the Middle East is further complicated by the competing interests of Russia, the United States and as well as ME countries such as Turkey and Egypt who are openly or covertly supporting one side or another while playing both off against the middle.

Already the generosity and goodwill of Germany and other nations who have welcomed a large influx of refugees is being sorely tested. Germans have been horrified to witness mobs of recently arrived young men groping and even raping women at various cities across their nation on New Year’s Eve. Without proper planning and resources to integrate such huge numbers of desolate people into an established society, the situation in Western Europe has the potential to get very ugly indeed.

Closer to home and in a much more orderly fashion, China continues to build its military while claiming sovereignty over large tracts of the China Sea much to the dismay of Japan, the U.S. and its allies.

Meanwhile, North Korea whose dynasty of mad despots have virtually enslaved and starved a whole population by making them believe that the evil United States is ready to invade at any minute to plunder their rich “workers’ wonderland” continues to posture in faux defiance. Whether Kim Jong-un really has the fixings for a hydrogen bomb or not is less important than whether he’d be mad enough to use it if he has. Hopefully, we’ll never find out.

I make no comment on who is right or wrong in these conflicts. Global politics is not our go at radioinfo. Okay, I tell a lie. I’m prepared to make this comment even though it has nothing to with radio. Only rapists, murders and the truly unhinged would support Islamic State. No religion or political grievance can remotely justify the sadistic brutality of this mob. Also, right up there with IS is Boko Haram, who kidnap underage school girls to use as sex slaves under the pretence of doing Allah’s work by preventing them from getting an education.

It is difficult to look at all that is going on in the world today and not come to the conclusion that we live in times more “interesting” than we would like. Maybe, it will all work itself out. Or not. Either way, I have a hunch that humanity will be more in need of radio than at any time since World War II. 

People will need radio’s immediacy, it’s portability as well as it’s availability on any platform that’s handy. They’ll need to know what’s going on around the world and around the corner and how it affects them. Most of all, they will need familiar voices they can trust to help make sense of it all.

It’s my prediction that in 2016, listeners will flock to radio. Real Radio. A music server with a clever algorithm for a DJ won’t cut it. Many radio operators will see it as a huge opportunity. No denying it is. But more than that, it’s a huge responsibility. A responsibility that I know Australian radio is capable of taking on.


Peter Saxon