Radio days in modern times

Shihab Sarkar | Saturday, 20 February 2021

Few can forget the urban middle-class living rooms featuring an electricity-run large radio kept at a prominent place, either on a shelf or a small table. The radio was a symbol of status like today's large-screen LCD televisions. In the later times, starting from the 1960s, the big radios were replaced by transistor broadcasters run on dry cell batteries. Nowadays, electric radios mostly belong to the list of collectors' items.

With scores of newer outlets of entertainment, chiefly music, within their reach urban youths, in general, have stopped from being attracted to the radio. Radios are increasingly taking up a functional role, which is effectively played by user-friendly transistors. Moreover, the gadget has shifted en masse to the remote and inaccessible areas of a country. Bangladesh is no exception. These days radios, i.e. transistors, are used by rural people for basic information about vital sectors touching their lives. Once upon a time, Bangladesh villagers would tune in to 1-band cheap Japan-made transistors to listen to songs and news only. In urbanareas in the 1970s, the three-band radios widely reached middle-class houses, with a few owning black-and-white TV sets. Few people both in villages and cities had yet to understand radios' superiority to the television in terms of information flow.

The World Radio Day, observed on February 13 every year, has once again in 2021 visited the radio fans in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world. Organised by UNESCO, the day highlights the radio's role in keeping the people in the outlying areas aware of the socio-political developments in their countries and outside. The day occupies a vital place in the UNESCO calendar of year-long observances of selected days. As it sees, the objective of the World Radio Day is to raise awareness among the people of the importance of radio broadcasts. Apart from disseminating correct information, it encourages people to fight against misinformation --- especially in the remote areas. During the raging Covid-19 pandemic, correct radio information can enable people to have an authentic picture of the scourge's prevalence, as well as learn about the necessity of health-related imperatives. In these tasks, the short-radius community radios play the most vital role. According to broadcasters with specialisation, the community radios can be defined as rural counterparts of the city-based FM (Frequency Modulation) radios. The difference is the rural radios are focused on giving villagers tips on agriculture and how to improve their living standards and remain free of all kinds of hazards. Their transmissions have also space for entertainment.

The final goal ofWorld Radio Day islofty and time-befitting. Elaborating on the Day, UNESCO says, February 13 is a date proclaimed to celebrate radio broadcast, improve international cooperation among radio broadcasters and "encourage decision-makers to create and provide access to information through radio …"

Radio played a great role during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. During a 9-month-long fight against a brutal enemy, the war-time radio broadcasts, especially news bulletins, had been moulded to emerge as yet another front, alongside the Freedom Fighters. Called Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, it had continued urging people in occupied Bangladesh not to lose courage and patriotic strength. To the people in occupied Bangladesh, the radio broadcasts virtually became straws to clutch at. During the months from May to September in 1971, with Freedom Fighters being trained at camps and taking preparations for ambushes, the radio-soldiers put in their best of journalistic and creative efforts to keep the people's morale high.

The role of radio as a source of inspiration has been seen on many battle fronts and disaster zones across the world. The broadcasts led Bangladesh liberation fighters and the people to achieve jointly the final victory. The birth of Bangladesh was greatly shaped by its war-time radio.

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