By Daniel Reyes
"Video Killed the Radio Star" the Buggles said it best in 1979, but radio was losing popularity steadily since the 1950s. The debut of MTV two years later didn't help any. And now that internet is killing the television show, radio is even farther behind the current tech loving times. But when we compare media outlets by the technology they use; Facebook and Twitter would be MP3s, TV would be a CD, newspapers would be cassettes, but radio, radio would be vinyl. It even has all the same signature qualities; simplicity, reliability, and character. Radio has contributed to the evolution of modern and social media, suffered world war wounds, and has played pivotal roles during revolutions all over the world. Here in America though, radio has been swept under the rug of our social consciousness and taken for granted. You may not support radio normally, but when your power is out and your gadgets finally run out of juice, you know that your battery powered or hand crank radio is going to still be there for you.
Radio's obvious necessity is its practical use during an emergency situation. Radio is by far the most durable mass communication system. It is always the last system down and the first one back up in time of crisis. That's one of the reasons why I think rebels during times of uprising in Southern America used them to gain an upper hand during their revolutions. The radio is how I found out about the Tsunami warning, right here in Humboldt County a while ago. I am sure that there have been as many more people saved by that emergency signal than there have been people annoyed by it. The main reason for its life saving success I think is the simplicity of the technology.
Radio technology is incredibly basic. Soldiers in WWII made radios out of spare parts that they could find on the battlefield: wire, razors, and pencils (Foxhole). The signal sending transmitter might be a little more energy intensive, but those foxhole radios, as they became called, didn't even need an energy source to pick up a signal. They would listen to records being played from Rome on the front lines (Foxhole). Today we don't need to search a battlefield to build a MacGyver style radio, but they are still pretty easy to make. If you want to see just how easy, check it out on YouTube and in about 20 minutes you can have your own emergency makeshift radio.
Speaking about the internet, radio and the internet have a closer relationship that you might realize. Not only has radio punched a niche in the internet by streaming most stations live, but they also put up an audio archive on most radio stations websites. This is where fans can listen to programs they missed or listen to a really good program again. A recorded program you can listen on demand, that sounds like a pod cast. In fact it is. The main difference is, that pod cast are usually know for having a video part as well as audio part. Whereas radio lacking in its visual prowess, it isn't completely alien to the camera from entering the studio. Television has been transforming radio programs into TV show for quite some time. Howard Stern started his show on the radio, and despite being on TV, he still has a regular radio airtime. Radio is on TV, online, and even on your phone. Did you know that you can download an AM/FM tuner to you phone, so you can listen anywhere at any time?
I can understand the point of view that the radio may not play the music or shows that you like, and that's why you don't listen to or support radio. This is a grievous mistake. Radio, especially community radio stations, like KMUD, play such a massive assortment of random things from eclectic people, that there has to be something there you like. And on the off chance that there really isn't a show you can get in to, then you should make one. That is one of the radios greatest strengths and most exciting real life opportunities, the ease it takes to generate new shows. The radio would even be on air if not for the many volunteers it takes to organize and create enough shows to be constantly airing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. If there is a style you don't hear or a community you want to build, community radio is the best tool you could have to start something. Before I ask you what your show would be about, let me tell you how you get one first.
The best way to get some airtime of your own is to make sure there is airtime to begin with. Support your radio station. There are no radio waves if the lights don't turn on and the rent doesn't get paid. Support your radio station. Concerts don't happen if there is no one to set up the stage or work the crowd. Support your radio station. Guess who donates prizes for the radio station to give out? They are people who support their radio station. I cannot stress enough how vital communal support is for a community radio station. There are plenty of ways to donate: money, time, and gifts. All are needed and accepted all the time. No voices are heard if there isn't a station to broadcast them. If you want to be heard you got to make sure people can hear you. Struggling musicians trying to get played or small businesses trying to spread their name, there are a lot of people who can benefit from the involvement of community radio.
So I urge you, bring radio back from the brink. Listen to, support and participate in your local radio station. You have a much better chance of hearing what you want to hear, and in some cases hearing what you need to hear. Radio has inspired, suffered, and yet endured. I hope that radio can be resurrected to its former glory that it had in the 20's and 30's. Back before video really did kill the radio and TV started its mess. When the TVs play static, the internet down, and your phone is out of power, the radio will still be there. At least I want it to be. Do you?
"Foxhole Radio" Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Oct. 2012. Web.
November 26, 2012
Daniel Reyes is a student at College of the Redwoods, Eureka, and a volunteer at KMUD.