World Radio Day promotes democracy and diversity

Photo by Jonathan Ernst, World Bank

Five years ago, in 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed February 13 World Radio Day. The UN hoped to raise greater awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio; to encourage decision makers to establish and provide access to information through radio; and to enhance networking and international cooperation among broadcasters.

“To celebrate World Radio Day, and the privilege that it is to be able to broadcast and have people’s ideas and perspectives and passions shared with the community, I think is really important both to highlight − but also to remember that’s something we need to preserve,” says CJSF 90.1 FM program director Robin Eriksson.

CJSF is one of the local radio stations planning to commemorate World Radio Day. Eriksson says they will feature a theme on sports in radio broadcast and how it unites people of different backgrounds.

RED Radio 93.1 FM station host Harjinder Thind has some ideas on how to commemorate World Radio Day.

“We will probably be giving away some radios. We are inviting some boys and girls to participate as co-hosts in our programs − those are some things we are considering,” he says.

The Filipino Edition, also on RED FM, will celebrate World Radio Day by listening to how radio has enriched two or three listeners’ lives, says host Irene Querubin.

“Back home, people listened to radio as soon as they wake up in the morning. They listened to the news, to the radio drama and it goes on all day. Technology has changed a lot of that but I’m sure people remember how it used to be,” says Querubin, who has been host for the last five years.

Music and talk shows cater to the Filipino community in Tagalog and English. Querubin says she plays original Philippine music because she finds many Filipinos miss their local artists, such as Rey Valera, Sharon Cuneta and Rico J. Puno. She also talks about topics on top-of-mind to her listeners.

“Whether it’s tips on how to look for work and get settled in Canada, or youth issues, or the Philippine President’s new declaration, we talk about it all on the program with panelists so Filipinos can share and voice their views. We invite experts who could provide informative discussion and accurate information,” she says.

The Filipino Edition also highlights stories of successful Filipinos who made it through on sheer determination and hard work, says Querubin.

Diverse voices represented

Eriksson says CJSF 90.1 FM aims to provide under-represented voices. This provides a platform where alternative perspectives and alternative music choices can be heard and can be appreciated. They have at least 10 different languages represented, including: French, English, Russian, Chinese, Farsi, Amharic, and Ethiopian.

In a radio control room during transmission. | Photo by Steve Bowbrick

“We really try to present information and different styles of music you wouldn’t get on commercial radio, for instance,” she says.

CJSF broadcasts shows in different languages throughout the schedule, unlike some stations that relegate the third language programming to the weekends. For example, there could be an English program that is followed by a Portuguese program, followed by another English program. Ericksson thinks the way the schedule is programmed reflects what a Canadian community sounds like.

“I think it reflects what our community really looks like, because our neighbours are diverse and we’re not always hearing English. I quite enjoy listening in other languages, even though I don’t understand it,” she says. “I enjoy the music that they play, the lilt of the language. I just kind of find it interesting. I’m sure that there are other people who continue to listen, even though they don’t understand.”

Specific ethnic issues broadcasted

RED station addresses a wide range of topics, including political and spiritual. Thind, who has been the news director the past 11 years, says his station has talk shows − but some humorous topics, too. These lighter topics air on Fridays. Some of the topics include the Sikh religion, which have very hot topics.

“We have some speakers who are totally spiritual. They talk about Sikhism, and other religions and tolerance. There have been conflicts between moderate and extremist views,” says Thind. “There have been fights over the chairs and tables in the free kitchen of gurdwara, and sword swinging. People have been injured. Those type of topics have been discussed.”

However, he points out about 85 per cent of his content is centered around Canadian issues, including politics, marriages and divorces.

“Our topics are not exclusively of Indian origin or Indian topics,” he says.

Radio station meets community needs

Fairchild Radio is no different. It has also had to respond to the needs of their listeners.

When the station launched in 1993, says Trevena Lee, news director at Fairchild Radio, the majority of Chinese immigrants were coming from Hong Kong.

“We provided programming that introduced them to basic knowledge like: the structure of the government, what kind of language services there are available, taxes, how do you get along with your neighbours. As the saying goes, ‘While in Rome, do as the Romans do,’” she adds.

These days their radio programs delve deeper into federal issues and provincial politics. However, programs are offering basic knowledge in Mandarin because most of the new immigrants come from China.

Querubin also feels it is necessary to have a radio show dedicated to the Filipino community.

“The idea of having a show like The Filipino Edition on air is for Filipinos to have an avenue where we could all share and discuss our very own views based on our own values, circumstance and culture,” she says.

Future of radio

Radio stations face similar challenges when it comes to trying to grow their audience.

Although they have some music shows geared to the younger generation, Fairchild Radio still faces the challenge of attracting younger listeners. They have added an app for its listeners.

“There’s so many things attracting their attention − that’s why we go to the app,” says Lee.

RED FM station has internet radio and an app; and has listeners across the country, as well as Australia, England and the Philippines.

For Erikson, community radio is an important democratic platform for community members.

“We need to make sure that space as a community is always reserved as our right, because it helps to instill that democracy is out there for us,” she says.

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