witch on your radio today, though it is difficult to tune into the correct station because there are about 75 channels in Sri Lanka alone. Today is the annual World Radio Day, celebrating radio, why we love it and why we need it today more than ever despite the growing popularity or influence of television and the social media. It is a day to remember the power of radio to touch lives and bring people together across every corner of the globe, according to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Radio Day was proclaimed on November 3, 2011 after being originally proposed by Spain.
Following a request from the Spanish Radio Academy, on September 20, 2010 Spain proposed that the UNESCO Executive Board include an agenda item on the proclamation of a World Radio Day. UNESCO had a full dialogue among stakeholders and said there was 90% support for the move. Among those in favor were the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB), the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the International Association of Broadcasting (IAB), the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA), the Organización de Telecomunicaciones Ibeoramericanas (OTI), the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Vatican Radio.
In case we have lost touch with the meter-band of history, the invention of the radio in its current form involved many people. Experimental work on the connection between electricity and magnetism began around 1820 with the work of Hans Christian Ørsted, and continued with the work of André-Marie Ampère, Joseph Henry and Michael Faraday. These research culminated in a theory of electromagnetism developed by James Clerk Maxwell. He published a Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism in 1873, stimulating many people to experiment with wireless communication. Others experimented without the benefit of his theories. It is considered likely that the first intentional transmission of a signal by means of electromagnetic waves was performed by David Edward Hughes around 1880, though this was considered to be induction at the time. The first systematic and unequivocal transmission of EM waves was performed by Heinrich Rudolf Hertz and described in papers published in 1887 and 1890. Mr. Hertz famously considered these results as being of little practical value. After Mr.Hertz’s work many people were involved in further development of the electronic components and methods to improve the transmission and detection of electromagnetic waves.
Around the turn of the 20th century Guglielmo Marconi, developed the first apparatus for long distance radio communication. On 23 December 1900, Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to send audio (wireless telephony) by means of electromagnetic waves, successfully transmitting over a distance of about 1.6 kilometers, and six years later on Christmas Eve 1906 he became the first person to make a public radio broadcast. By 1910 these various wireless systems had come to be referred to by the common name “radio”.
When Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948 we had only the state-controlled Radio Ceylon which was later named as the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). Today we have about 75 radio channels, most of them privately owned though the SLBC is still regarded as the most popular as it is able to reach the remotest villages and the most vulnerable communities.
With 36 television channels based in Sri Lanka and millions of people having access to the internet on smart phones or computers, city-based people may think these two forms of communication are the most powerful. But most communication experts say the radio is still the most powerful.
In that context with the new national government having restored media freedom to a large extent, FM radio channels like other media groups need to be aware that rights are linked to responsibilities. As we have said often, those who fail to carry out their responsibilities, also forfeit their rights. In this era when we are all called upon to commit ourselves to inter-religious, inter-racial and inter-cultural unity in diversity. Radio stations need to be aware of their responsibility to broadcast fair, balanced and accurate reports with priority being given to the well-being of the country instead of having private agendas, twisting or giving a spin to news reports for the benefit of any political party and especially those with extremist ideas otherwise it would be better for them to end their transmission.