Illustration: Kim Wiens.
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Ottawa commemorates World Radio Day with webcast on future of radio

With the evolution of technology in today’s world, to some radio may seem as a thing of the past. The people at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Farm Radio International (FRI), however, are determined that radio’s charm will keep it as a technological medium of the present.

World Radio Day, which takes place on Feb. 13 and began in 2012, was created by UNESCO to celebrate radio and its important place in our society. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO is teaming up with FRI to host BOOM BOX, a live webcast taking place on World Radio Day and broadcasting out of the McMillan Agency’s studio in Ottawa’s ByWard Market.

The webcast will be hosted by the CBC’s Piya Chattopadhyay and feature some of the biggest names in podcasts and radio in Canada, including CANADALAND’s Jesse Brown, and Doug Ward, founder of CBC’s As It Happens and chair of the board of FRI.

The guests will discuss the future of radio and how it has changed and adapted to remain one of the most important forms of media.

Kathryn Burnham, the communication coordinator for FRI and a University of Ottawa alumna, believes that, although radio has changed over the past 100 years and is no longer the only source for news, “people still really love the radio.”

“For this year’s World Radio Day, we (thought we) would bring together some big radio people in Canada to talk about why radio is so important, why it is so resilient… how has radio endured, and how has it changed in order to adapt to changing times,” says Burnham.

Although radio shows have stayed true to their traditional format in many ways by broadcasting through car and home radios, they have also found a new life by adapting to the Internet with podcasts and online broadcasting. Burnham cites Serial, the true crime podcast that began in October 2014, as an example of how radio has adapted and found a new fan base of young listeners through podcasts.

Burnham also believes that social media sites, like Twitter, are helping radio shows and podcasts thrive with a new generation of listeners.

“With social media you can get so much feedback from your listeners, you can share that and have a discussion about a radio show taking place in social media.”

Burnham says that radio is an “engine for social change” that can help people connect around the world, especially in impoverished areas where other technology is not as accessible. FRI’s main mandate is working with radio broadcasters throughout Africa to broadcast shows on topics like farming, nutrition, and health that are useful for small-scale farmers.

As podcasts and radio broadcasts grow increasingly popular, it appears that radio is here to stay and has done a much better job at adapting to technology than other forms of news media.

“We probably thought technology was going to kill radio, but it is only just changed how we appreciate it.”

Boom Box will take place live at the McMillan Agency, 541 Sussex Drive, as well as on CHUO 89.1 FM and online. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., and the event will air from 1-2p.m. Tickets can be bought in advance for $10 here, or at the door for $12.


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