By Robin Gomes
In a message for World Radio Day 2020, celebrated on Thursday, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, underscored how the pioneering medium celebrates diversity and contributes to global peace.
“Radio offers a wonderful display of diversity in its formats, in its languages, and among radio professionals themselves. This sends an important message to the world”, Guterres said.
“As we strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and tackle the climate crisis,” the UN chief said, “ radio has a key role to play as a source of information and inspiration alike.”
Radio for diversity
On the occasion of World Radio Day, February 13, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, has also called on radio stations to uphold diversity, both in their newsroom and on the airwaves.
The diversity of radio content and programming, as well as the plurality of opinions expressed, the UN agency said, is matched by the variety of broadcasting channels. Whether on AM, FM or digital radio in the car, stream stations on the web, or podcasts on the mobile phone, it said, people are experiencing the world’s most widely consumed medium.
“Through the freedom it offers, radio is thus a unique means of promoting cultural diversity,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said. “This is particularly the case for indigenous peoples, for whom radio can be an accessible medium for sharing their experiences, promoting their cultures and expressing their ideas in their own languages.”
“It is also the case with community radio stations, which relay the concerns of many social groups whose voices would have much less impact in public debate without radio.”
Origins of World Radio Day
13 February was proclaimed as World Radio Day at the 36th General Conference of the UNESCO, in commemoration of the day in 1946 when United Nations Radio was established. On 14 January 2013, the UN General Assembly formally endorsed UNESCO’s proclamation of World Radio Day.
The objectives of the Day are 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; as well as to enhance networking and international cooperation among broadcasters.
“On this World Radio Day, let us recognize the enduring power of radio to promote diversity and help build a more peaceful and inclusive world,” the UN Secretary-General urged in his message.
The February 13 World Radio Day comes a day after the Vatican marks the anniversary of the inauguration of its own radio on 12 February 1931.
It was on that day 89 years ago that Pope Pius XI delivered the first-ever radio message by a pope. That was 2 years and a day after the birth of Vatican City State on February 11, 1929, following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy.
Just four days after the creation of Vatican City, Pope Pius XI officially commissioned the famous Italian-born radio pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi to build the radio station inside the new state.
The first signal that was sent out from Vatican Radio on Feb. 12, 1931, was however in Morse code.
A technician typed in the words, “In nomine Domini, Amen”, the Latin for “In the Name of the Lord, Amen!” With that, radio stations, ships, and anyone who had a proper equipment went on alert for the first-ever papal radio message.
It fell on Marconi to introduce the message of the pope. Speaking in Italian, Marconi said: “I have the highest honour of announcing that in only a matter of seconds the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Pius XI, will inaugurate the Radio Station of Vatican City State. The electric radio waves will carry to all the world his words of peace and blessing.”
First papal broadcast
It was at 4:49 p.m., on Feb. 12, 1931, that Pope Pius XI went on air live. The first papal radio broadcast, written in Latin by the Pope himself, was a universal pastoral message. It was addressed not just to Catholics but to all - the separated brethren, "the dissidents," even non-believers, governments, the oppressed, the rich, the poor, the workers, the persecuted and the suffering. The Pope shared the Church's message of peace and love, saying his prayers were for the entire people of the world.
Under 10 pope for 89 years
For nearly 9 decades, Vatican Radio has been at the service of the Church and the Gospel worldwide under 10 popes. Also called Vatican News, it has gone into the digital media in a big way, as part of the new information system of the Holy See under the Secretariat for Communication. The mission continues even today through its 33 language programmes on the radio and digital media daily.