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Voices And Languages Connect People And Values

The UNESCO World Radio Day was marked almost everywhere this past week. By celebratory coincidence it arrived on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, in English, after which the observant commence Lenten fasting. The special theme for World Radio Day 2018 activities was radio and sport, coinciding with the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

dial it in“In an era of dramatic advances in communications, radio retains its power to entertain, educate, inform and inspire,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the official statement. “This year, with the Winter Olympics now under way, we also recognize the many ways in which sports broadcasting brings people together around excitement and achievement. Let us celebrate both radio and sports as ways of helping people achieve their full potential.”

Radio “is also a means to convey the values of fair play, teamwork and equality in sport,” added UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. Quoting a 2015 UNESCO monitoring study, Mme Azoulay noted “only 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport and only 12% of sports news is presented by women. UNESCO is working to improve the coverage of women’s sports, to combat gender discrimination on the airwaves and to promote equal opportunities in sports media. The task is immense.”

Broadcaster associations, in statements about World Radio Day, accentuated the positive. “Wherever you are, radio makes sure you can be there with and for your team in a unique spoken style, translating the excitement and fever surrounding the event,” said the Association of European Radio (AER). “All of this, for free.” The AER also complained, delicately, about “access to stadiums… for radio journalists.” (See AER statement here)

"Radio connects people and fans alike,” noted German private broadcaster association VPRT radio and audio chairperson Klaus Schunk in a statement. “Radio is an important source of information for the population, not just in major sporting events such as the Olympic Games. Especially with its (coverage) of regional sports in the regions, radio (adds to) regional identity and is loved by its listeners.” (See VPRT statement here - in German)

Spanish broadcasters lay claim to World Radio Day’s creation. Spanish Radio Academy (Academia Española de la Radio) president Jorge Álvarez in 2010 proposed creating an event commemorating radio broadcasting to UNESCO Director General Kōichirō Matsuura. It has been a fixture in the UN calendar since 2011.

Keeping with the World Radio Day theme Spanish national network Cadena SER (Prisa Radio) presented sports highlights. Along with sister channels Los 40 Principales and Cadena Dial the company-wide campaign Sin Respeto No Hay Juego (No Respect No Game) highlighting “toxic behaviors” during football matches initiated earlier this year was reprised. Dedicated sports talk-shows reflected on violent episodes and discrimination involving fans and team members.

Broadcasters around the world also noted World Radio Day with its radio and sports theme, some better than others. Internews news programming advisor Charles Haskins speaking at a World Radio Day event held at the University of Juba, South Sudan summed up the spirit of the day. “Sports has a language for togetherness, it doesn’t have a tribe but it has one team from different cultures, this means sports can be strong tool for bringing different communities together to live in peace.”

In the United States, which no longer recognizes UNESCO, Boston all-sports radio station WEEI halted live broadcasts for a day (February 16) as on-air staff received “sensitivity training” following a xenophobic “joke.” A San Francisco all-sports station fired a show host earlier in the week for a misogynistic comment about an Olympic athlete.

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