Radio's main strength: portability
Posted on Wednesday, July 4th, 2007 at 2:29 pm. #
I’ve just heard Alan Johnston, the released BBC journalist, speaking to BBC staff. (I heard it on BBC Radio Five Live, who are desperately filling with anything they can get because it’s gone a bit rainy for the tennis. I was changing a shower head at the time. Rock’n'roll.)
The text of this speech is not yet reported on BBC News, but Johnston got very animated as he explained his ‘lucky break’: getting a radio.
About twenty days in, he was given a radio to listen to: which he promptly tuned in to the BBC World Service. From there, he heard all those messages of goodwill from his family, from his colleagues, and from people who didn’t know him at all.
He spoke at length of his enjoyment of hearing these messages of support; the support he received on his 100th day in captivity, the real satisfaction of knowing that he wasn’t forgotten, and how his capture was being reported. It gave him immense calm to know that his release was always actively being worked on. He listened to it 18 hours a day (and apparently will be providing the BBC with a programming review!)
Things you might like to contemplate:
Would his captors have given him a computer to listen to the BBC World Service on the internet?
Would his captors have given him a television, wiring it in to an external antenna or for cable?
And, of course:
Would that radio have been less useful had the BBC World Service not broadcast on 1323AM in the Middle East?
It’s probably no exaggeration to say that the BBC World Service saved Alan Johnston’s sanity. It’s a slight exaggeration, but probably justifiable, to claim that it may even have saved his life. And it did it on old-fashioned AM radio. No whistles, no bells, no internet, no DTV.
Radio futurologists like me (I just made that up, it sounds good) are forever saying that radio is going multi-platform. It is. But. The bedrock of radio – and still the place where most listeners are – is old-fashioned, portable, analogue radio.
Radio broadcasters forget that at our peril.